Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
St. Luke 10.23-37
26 August 2018
Seminarian Simeon Cornwell, Vicar
+ In the Name of Jesus +
During the Reformation, one of the biggest complaints leveled against the Roman Catholics from the Lutherans was that they preached mostly about morals and virtuous living and very little about faith. In opposition, Rome argued that by emphasizing to such an extent faith and grace alone, the result would be people who lived immorally.
And so, in the Lutheran Confessions, Luther and the other reformers go to great lengths to show that this is not true. They emphasize over and over again how true faith, or living faith, as they describe it, is not something that puts its feet up and remains idle.
Luther even goes on to describe that “this faith is a busy and active thing.” That even before it hears of what good works it should do, it has already done them and is working on others.
In fact, this was a clear sign to many during the Reformation that the Lutherans were in fact, in the right. Many left Rome because, despite their teaching about morals and living a life of love and mercy, they did not practice it.
When the Lutherans sought to have a godly council on what the Church was teaching, Rome time and again denied the request, even though as Christians, we are to test every spirit over against God’s Word. They even sought to burn at the stake or behead those who taught faithfully what Scripture taught.
Perhaps this is made most manifest in the fact that Rome taught that faith could exist alongside an evil intention to continue and remain in sin.
In the end, the teaching emphasized by the Lutherans during the Reformation by no means did away with morals or the teaching of virtue. On the contrary, it upheld and glorified living a godly life to a greater extent than Rome.
For although Rome spoke highly of morals and virtue, they did not address the root of the problem, namely that all immorality and godless living flows from an evil heart. That it is not just our outward works which count before God as sins, but also our very thoughts and desires.
They forgot our Lord’s words, “It is not what goes into the body that makes a man unclean, but that which comes out of him.” And “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.”
So, despite the criticisms leveled against the Lutherans at the time of the Reformation, they did, in fact, emphasize and exhort a godly life. A living, not a dead faith, as Rome had incorrectly taught.
Now, by speaking of this distinction between the Lutherans at the time of the Reformation and that of Rome, I do not mean to encourage pride on our part. For we, myself included, would be just as much in error as they were if we fell into this trap.
Rather, by recalling this important difference, I intend to remind all of us of the fact that we, as Christians, if we remain faithful to the teaching of Scripture, are to be the most virtuous of all people. Which brings us to our Lord’s parable for today.
The lawyer who came to question Jesus, was not in the wrong because he asked about good works and how to do them. He was mistaken in the fact that he asked it to determine how he might earn eternal life.
But this question came from pride. He attempted to set a bar for himself, which, if he could leap over, all would be good. But a heart truly made clean, forgiven, and renewed by Christ does not seek to ask how much it should do. It just does what God commands.
This does not mean that it is wrong to ask what to do, for it is good to meditate upon God’s Law. In fact, all over Scripture this is praised as a good and glorious practice. That if done, one will be as a tree planted by streams of living water, which bears its fruit in its season.
Jesus re-orients the lawyer by telling a parable about how He, Jesus, found him and all of you, on the side of the road. Beaten and bloodied by robbers, namely by the devil and sin. Left half-dead, with no hope.
So as Jesus explains, as the men of this world pass by, unbelievers, the riches and pleasures which promise to take care of and comfort us, they simply pass by on the other side of the road. They can offer no comfort, no help. And they don’t desire to. They only desire to leave you there to rot. To bleed to death. To suffer more and more.
But then comes the least likely of all men: a Samaritan. Used as the example because to the Jews in Jesus’ day, Samaritans were the scum of the earth. Nothing to be looked at or admired, just as Jesus, the very Son of God, came into our world. For He had no form or beauty that we should look at Him. He was scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
But Jesus does not act as do the men of this world, the unbelievers, the false pleasures and riches of this life. Instead of passing you by on the other side as they did, He chooses to get down into the muck and dirt with you. To use His own goods and to spare no expense in order to make sure you get better.
He even takes the time and effort to take you into His Body, the Church, and entrusts you to faithful shepherds who are commanded to take care of you until He returns. To make sure that you continue to get better.
It is not a “quick fix” per se, for after all, you didn’t merely have a few cuts and bruises, but were left half-dead. Rather, it is a lifelong process. One which the Lord Himself intends to see you through until the end, if you remain in His Body, the Church. This He has made abundantly clear in sparing no cost and sending His only beloved Son to suffer and die for you.
But our Gospel text does not stop there. As you are healing, being fed with His very body and blood at this altar, He asks you to follow Him. He doesn’t just give you His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.
He gives you His body and blood so that you might be strengthened and preserved in both body and soul to life everlasting. That you might be renewed. So that you might go back out on that road and show mercy and compassion to those who have been beaten and bloodied by sin.
And so, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, while this parable is first about Christ and what He has done for you, it is also about what you are to do and how you are to act toward others. For in your Baptism, the Father united you with the Body of His Son, which is the Church.
You are now in the Body of Christ, made evident as you eat His body and drink His blood. And as you are in Him, so you are strengthened to be as He is to the world. To show mercy and compassion to those who the world would rather pass by on the other side of the road. To the lonely, the depressed, the homeless and poor, and all those unloved by the world. And not only to them, but also to those who hate you and wish harm upon you.
So, as you come to this altar today, receive forgiveness. But come also to be strengthened in Christ and thus in love and mercy. And as you leave the altar and go throughout your week, bearing in your body the body and blood of Christ, meditate upon this. And you go and be as He is to a world in desperate need of His love and mercy.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.