TEXTS: LUKE 18:9-14/GENESIS 4:1-15/EPHESIANS 2:1-10
GOD BE PROPITIATED TOWARD ME – FOR JESUS’ SAKE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To the saints at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center who are faithful in Christ Jesus, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.


“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”


Please hear some good news in what may seem a bad sort of way. It is just fine if you come to this house of worship today without all the answers. It is in fact good if you recognize this morning (evening) that everything with you is not as it should be. Indeed, you are fortunate if you are aware that your vocations accuse you - as a spouse or parent or student or friend or child or worker or citizen or Christian or pastor – that your vocations accuse you with things you have done or left undone – with words said or left unsaid – with thoughts or lack of thoughts about yourself and God and life and others. In this polarized and corrosive culture – in tough economic times – however difficult the transitions and troubles of your life – how beneficial for you if you recognize that your greatest problem right now - is you – your lack of perfect fear and love and trust in God. A prayer I have used in recent years with others more than any other except the Lord’s prayer begins in this way – O most loving Father, You want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing You, and to lay all our cares on You, knowing that You care for us…

ELEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY – 8/31/2014
TEXTS: LUKE 18:9-14/GENESIS 4:1-15/EPHESIANS 2:1-10
GOD BE PROPITIATED TOWARD ME – FOR JESUS’ SAKE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To the saints at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center who are faithful in Christ Jesus, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.


“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”


Please hear some good news in what may seem a bad sort of way. It is just fine if you come to this house of worship today without all the answers. It is in fact good if you recognize this morning (evening) that everything with you is not as it should be. Indeed, you are fortunate if you are aware that your vocations accuse you - as a spouse or parent or student or friend or child or worker or citizen or Christian or pastor – that your vocations accuse you with things you have done or left undone – with words said or left unsaid – with thoughts or lack of thoughts about yourself and God and life and others. In this polarized and corrosive culture – in tough economic times – however difficult the transitions and troubles of your life – how beneficial for you if you recognize that your greatest problem right now - is you – your lack of perfect fear and love and trust in God. A prayer I have used in recent years with others more than any other except the Lord’s prayer begins in this way – O most loving Father, You want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing You, and to lay all our cares on You, knowing that You care for us…


The Pharisees had no fear of losing God. They were full of self-confidence that God was pleased with them. They were serious and strict and searched the Scriptures. They lived decent, disciplined, useful lives. He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and treated others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.


In Semitic speech the Greek word for prayer means both individual prayer and public worship. Public prayer was permitted in the temple during the morning and evening atonement sacrifice (about 9 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon). Even private prayer was spoken out loud. The Pharisee stood by himself but in a position intended to be visible to all and heard by all.


He gives thanks to God - for himself!  Five times he uses the word “I” in prayer. A seminary professor frequently asked the question – “Who’s doing the verbs?”  His point was that if God is in charge we are in good order – but that if we are the main actors we are in trouble. He would apply His question to conversion and to worship and even to living the Christian life.   Who’s doing the verbs?


In the Pharisees case – there is no doubt. I thank you that I am not like other men…The positive evidence he gives for his gratefulness are works beyond what was expected in first century Israel. Pious Pharisees fasted 12 times each year but he prayed with gusto…I fast twice a week!  Old Testament tithes were from oil and grain and wine (with exceptions listed by the Mishnah). But this Pharisee prayed - I give tithes of all that I get!  This would mean he also paid a tithe on what he purchased from others in case a tithe had not been previously made on that. Fellow-redeemed if you and I and every member of the South Wisconsin District gave like this man - the offering plates would simply overflow for work here and elsewhere.


But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, make atonement for me the sinner!”  In the Greek the definite article is used – “the” sinner, not “a” sinner. With astounding focus he sees his own sin!  In the Greek the verb is imperfect – meaning “he kept beating his chest” suggesting a continuous state of repentance!  He looks down in repentance but he looks down his nose at no one. He is free of that deadly game of comparative Christianity – sizing others down – in order to size oneself up. 


The request he makes - translated as “have mercy” - is a different Greek verb than the general term for mercy. It is used only one other time in Scripture speaking of Jesus who “makes propitiation for our sins” (Hebrews 2:17). Its noun form refers to the mercy seat – the lid on the Ark of the Covenant where the sacrificial blood was sprinkled. It is ultimately used of Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood (Rom. 3:25) for our sins and for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).


This word relates directly to the twice-daily temple gatherings for worship and prayer. An unblemished lamb was sacrificed in each service and its blood was sprinkled on the great High Altar. This was a sin offering by God’s command – to atone for the sins of Israel. Public prayers were offered by the Priest - silver trumpets were sounded – Psalms were read. The priest then disappeared into the outer sanctuary (the holy place) to offer incense and trim the lamps. As the priest stepped out of sight into the Holy Place – as the incense rose upward – those worshipping outside in the courtyard spoke their own prayers. It is thought that this is the time (with a freshly bloodied altar from the just-completed sacrifice) when the Pharisee prayed and when the tax collector beat his chest in deep distress in prayer – God make atonement for me – God be propitiated toward be – God be reconciled to me - the sinner!


“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. What amazing grace!  For by grace you have been saved through faith. This faith is in God’s grace through the blood of the Lamb of God. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…Oh how we love to be in charge and do the verbs – even with God – to choose Him – to take Him – to put Him in our debt!  Oh how God loves to give to those He has created in His image – now fallen in sin!  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.


Boasting can be external like the Pharisees or internal. It can be expressed in words or simply dominate one’s attitude!  Elitist thoughts can quietly control. After all, one might think there is no one quite like me – with quick mind – various talents – good judgment – my unique experiences – my caring nature. Luther said that it is a high art to be able to contain oneself and be humble as regards the endowments God gives. The pesky devil keeps tempting us to puff ourselves up before others and also before God. The Pharisee did so and let it all out – blowing His trumpet – verbalizing what he considered his statistics and standing before God.


Thank God that at least that we’re not like that pompous man!  Can you believe his strutting before God?  But wait – that’s the same reasoning he used – comparing himself with the worst he could think of. The sad truth is that there is a Pharisee in each of us. The sad truth is that we can exalt ourselves – even while we keep it to ourselves!


Dear Christians – Jesus once again turns things upside down with His teaching. It was thought to be inconceivable that a Pharisee should be a scoundrel and that a tax collector could be righteous before God. The office of the tax collector involved squeezing people unjustly to enrich oneself. But the Pharisee’s theft was far more serious. In prideful religious unbelief, he took credit for glory that was God’s alone!  He stole from God’s gracious name to exalt His own name.


Is it not a paradox?  The one dead in sin appears full of life and good works especially to himself!  The one God has given repentance and new life and made a new creation - appears spiritually defeated and dead – even to himself!  This doesn’t mean God doesn’t also give His saints a joyful confidence in His grace and His care for them. It does mean that in the realm of repentance and faith our feelings don’t constantly reflect the newness that we have in Christ. You see, as God first created out of nothing – so He recreates faith out of nothing. Conversion is solely God’s work – not our decision. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.


The tax collector beat upon his chest indicating that the innermost reaches of his heart were sinful. He utterly despaired of himself. His one and only cry before the Holy Place of God’s presence - in the place of atonement by blood was this - “God be reconciled to me the sinner.”  And God was!


I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Beloved, God help you to utterly despair of trust in yourself - your own righteousness - your own goodness – now and in the hour of your death. God help us to see how far the heart that lies within our breast falls short of God’s holiness. For our one certain hope lies in the unblemished Lamb who speaks this parable to us. He would soon enter the very temple that He speaks of here. He would soon cleanse it, teach in it, and by His crucifixion, render it obsolete. He would shed His blood on a different altar – the altar of the cross - and the effect of His sacrifice would reach right into Holy of Holies – tearing the curtain of separation (Lk. 23:45). He is the one who humbled Himself and is now exalted!


Unlike the blood of Abel that cries out for retribution – the blood of Jesus speaks a better word – a forgiving word – a freeing word – a healing word – for you – for all your sin!  It is the blood of God!  It makes you holy before God!  It justifies you!   It is why Jesus baptized you into His bloody death!  It is why at His Table - He gives you to drink of the blood he shed on Calvary!  The payment is made by God!  The cleansing is done by God!  Your faith in Jesus Christ is His gift to you!  He has opened your heart!  He has done the verbs!  Christ is your righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30).


The truth is He is still doing the verbs. Risen from the grave the exalted Christ is here today to send you to your earthly home justified – right with God – perfect before Him. Ascended on high Jesus also intercedes for you before God’s throne in keeping with God’s holy will to save you!  The one who is exalted carries you with Him into God’s presence. It is so simple and yet so infinitely sweet!  It is the beating heart of weekly worship and the Christian faith!  It offers you freedom unapproachable by any earthly condition!  It is the unshakeable anchor for a clean and a good conscience! It is the key to trusting God, living in faith, and loving our neighbor!  It is the supreme treasure needed by every person in every land! It is the basis for mission work and intercessory prayer and generous proportionate giving for the Gospel. It is Jesus, living and active to forgive you and intercede for you and teach you and feed you!  God will not forget the good works Christ is doing through you!  That means you are free to stop cataloging and keeping a record of them!


Thank God that you see that your greatest problem is you – your sin!   That perception is the work of the Holy Spirit!  Most loving Father, you want us to give thanks for all things and to fear nothing but losing you…  The Pharisees had no fear of losing God. The bad news in an eternally good way is that we know we should fear nothing else. This is true because our Old Adam is a proud, poisonous, persistent opponent. But you see that!  Such recognition is the mark of a new heart – a heart in which faith dwells – else why the struggle?


Beloved - you should fear nothing but losing God!  But you should never fear God losing you!  My sheep hear my voice…and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one (John 10:28-30). I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6)!   Thank God that He is still doing the verbs of forgiveness and salvation!  Thank God that today He sends you home from the temple of Jesus’ body – not just getting by – not just spruced up a bit – not with a little pick-me-up!  He sends you perfect in His presence – holy is His sight – justified!  I tell you this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. 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