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What Do You Do With Sinners?

October 6, 2013

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Proper 22 (Pentecost 20)                                  Trinity Lutheran Church

6 October 2013                                                     Murdock, NE


+ Jesu Juva +

St. Luke 17:3-5


Newsflash everyone!  I know this might blow you away.  Shock you.  Stun you.  Astonish you.  But I’m going to take the chance and say it.  Are you ready?  Ok.  Here goes:  Christians sin!  Yes, that right!  Christians are no picture perfects.  They blow it.  On purpose. Intentionally.  Knowingly.  Deliberately. And not on purpose.  Unintentionally.  Unknowingly.  Inadvertently.  In thoughts, words, and deeds.


The world doesn’t have a monopoly on sinning.  We Christians are pretty good at sinning too!  We’ve got sinning down pat.  Against the Lord!  Against each other.  And anyone else that we encounter or hear about.


The blessed apostle Paul spoke of himself as the greatest or the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  He wasn’t exaggerating.  He was just telling the truth.  Paul honestly describes the Christian life as a constant struggle and battle with sin in these classic words from Romans 7:15, 18-19, “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature (the old Adam).  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – THIS I KEEP ON DOING.”


That’s exactly right.  We’re just like Paul.  Chief of sinners!  That’s the God’s honest truth!  The Christian church is chock full of sinners.  Every time some smart aleck puts down our congregation by saying that Trinity and the church are full of hypocrites and sinners, I smirk right back and retort:  “No Duh!  That’s a no brainer!  We all know that!  We don’t deny it!  Want to join the full-blast sinners’ club?”


What is one to do with sinners?  What is the pastor or you supposed to do with chronic transgressors?  Even church going ones?


Shall we let Jesus answer that?  Yes.  Let’s.  Let’s let the Lord Jesus have the say so.  OK?  But I warn you.  His words are really quite audacious!  What He says to do is quite unheard of!  Talk about a scandalous and an outrageous answer!  Some would contend, even many pastors, that the Jesus answer is downright reckless and immoral!  After all, who would ever dare to do and say what He mandates?  I wouldn’t.  Neither would you!


But He does.  Because He’s the Lord.  This is what pastors and the church are to do with sinners according to the Lord.  Listen.  “Watch yourselves.  If your brother sins, rebuke him.”  “Whoo Hoo!  We’re all for that Jesus! Dress down the sinner!  Give our sinful brother the what-for!  The business!  Rake him over the coals.  Ream him out! That’s what we’re talkin’ about!  Where do I sign up?”


AHEM.  But you didn’t let Jesus finish.  Don’t you know that it’s rude to interrupt?  Didn’t your mother or grandmother teach you any manners?  I’ll bet Lois and Eunice taught St. Timothy better.  Please Jesus, continue.  “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents FORGIVE HIM.”


Is that the deer in the headlights look?  You’re shocked aren’t you?  Taken aback?  “Forgive the brother who sins against me?  Really?  Doesn’t Jesus know how hard that is?  If He only knew how hurtful my brother was to me!  And not just once but so many times that I’ve lost count.  I can’t get over it.  I go over my brother’s sin in my mind 24-7!  I can’t bear to even look at him or be around him.  And now Jesus expects me to say:  ‘I forgive you’?  Easier said than done!”


AHEM.  You’ve interrupted the Lord again.  Remember your manners.  I’m sorry Jesus.  Please, finish.


“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ FORGIVE HIM.”


What are the pastors and the church to do with sinners?  The Lord’s answer is:  FORGIVE THEM!  As often as sinners repent and beg for pardon!  Always ready with the Lord’s absolution on their lips to speak into the sinner’s ears.


So that pastors are not stumbling blocks by withholding forgiveness that should be extended to repentant sinners, Jesus definitively mandates:  “If your brother, one of my little ones for whom I died sins, show him his sin so that he will turn from his sin and rejoice to hear the forgiveness that I won for him in my bloody Good Friday death.  Don’t be stingy or frugal with my forgiveness.  Dish it out!  In heaping portions for those who want it.”


Brothers and sisters, this is what going to church is all about.  This is what Christianity is all about.  It’s about repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  This is why Jesus instituted the office of the holy ministry and puts only qualified men into that office.  In the Epistle today St. Paul reminded Pastor Timothy of his ordination – when Timothy was put into the holy ministry:  “fan into flame,” Paul declares, “the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,” (2 Timothy 1:6).    In holy ordination the Lord equips qualified men with the necessary gifts for the holy ministry so that a Peter, a Matthew, a James and John, an Andrew and a Philip, a Paul, a Timothy, a Titus, a Brent Kuhlman, or a Scott Porath are His instruments to speak the Lord’s forgiveness.


Pastors are not to be timid with the gospel.  Pastors are the Lord’s public heralds – the bearer of good news – the best news you’ve ever heard.  They have the Lord’s promise of forgiveness that is FOR SINNERS.  “So,” Paul tells Pastor Timothy and all pastors including the one you have here at Trinity, “do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord … who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”


So, when you come to church, what should your pastor be heralding full blast?  Exactly what the Lord Jesus said:  “If you brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” 


Don’t ever let Kuhlman be shy about proclaiming the gospel for you.  Beg him to speak the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won for you on the cross often, repeatedly, habitually, Sunday after Sunday.  So that when you leave here Good Friday Jesus reigns in your conscience and in your life.


Don’t ever let Kuhlman do what one pastor decided to do to his congregation.  What’s that?  Glad you asked.  The pastor decided to eliminate the confession and absolution at the beginning of the service.


After three consecutive Sundays with no confession of sin and therefore no heralding of Christ’s forgiveness, one gray-haired woman had finally had enough.  She was offended.  Scandalized.  She (AHEM) interrupted the pastor and brought the liturgy to a full stop.  “Reverend,” she declared!  “This is the third Sunday in a row that you haven’t forgiven us.  Now let’s all turn to page such and such in the hymnal.  We’ll say our part.  We’ll confess we are sinners and be repented.  Do you see your part Reverend?  Here, let me help you.  Yes, that’s right!  It’s the absolution!  Speak it!  We won’t be left without it anymore!”


Isn’t that delicious?  That is precisely how the died for, redeemed by the Lord and baptized people of God talk and live.  Just like the prophet Habakkuk instructed us in the Old Testament reading today:  “The righteous will live by his faith” – faith in the promise of God’s forgiveness for Christ’s sake!


So now I’m going to do my duty as the Lord’s steward and herald.  Fanning into flame the gift that was given to me in my ordination.  I am not ashamed to say it.  And I’m not going to be chintzy or skimpy.  You’re going to get the whole load.  It’s the whopping, supersize proclamation FOR SINNERS that you came to hear and have come to expect every Sunday.





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