Fourth Sunday after Trinity
St. Luke 6.36-42; Romans 8.18-23
14 July 2019
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. Give and it shall be given to you. (St. Luke 6.37b-38)
But there is not much call for forgiveness in the world today, nor to give freely out of love, nor to refrain from God’s vocation as judge. Today, everyone’s a judge and quick to condemn the neighbor. Mercy, compassion that results in acts of love for the neighbor in need, is in short supply. Where is forgiving Joseph for his brothers today, where is Joseph who will not dare to act in the place of God? Not to be seen in today’s academic elite, political elite, and celebrity elite. Hard to find among us common folk, and the devil certainly desires Christians to mistreat and scandalize each other.
Thus the Apostle Paul tells us that the creation groans. The selfish lack of love or care for others, the speedy unwillingness to not speak with civility to those perceived as enemies, it is all a sign of our world’s ongoing decay. No surprise because the creation has been subjected to futility by God. Cursed is the ground, thorns and thistles infest it, cursed is childbirth, pain accompanies it, the woman’s desire is for her husband’s authority and of course, we are all born with inborn lust and the desire to sin inherited from our first parents.
But the groaning and suffering of birth pains the Apostle describes does lead somewhere. What we plot and scheme and hatch as evil against our brother, God will plot and scheme for our good. The child must be born, there is joy for the mother after she gives birth. The new creation God prepares must be delivered. We hope for it, it is promised, that new and better creation, that far off country we cannot yet see but which is our true homeland. We must wait for it with patience, enduring the ugliness of this pit for the beauty to come.
While we wait and suffer the crosses of this world and hope for the next, we listen to our Lord, who was saying to His disciples before our Gospel reading begins: “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” (St. Luke 6.35) What greater glory can come to us poor mortals than to resemble the “Most High” so as to be His sons! Sons of the Most High, kind like Him to the ungrateful and the evil, seeking to love and thus forgive where none is deserved. Seeking to give and give some more, for an unseen but promised reward.
Eva Mozes Kor died on July 4, 2019, age 85, in Krakow, Poland. She was on her annual trip to Auschwitz. Those of you who live here in Terre Haute know Mrs. Kor as the Holocaust survivor who founded in 1995 the local CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center here in town.
CANDLES is an acronym, I found out, from Mrs. Kor’s obituary for “Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.” Mrs. Kor and her identical twin sister were two of some three thousand prisoners subjected to horrific medical experiments on twins, supervised by the evil Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, the so-called “angel of death.”
The girls survived this horror and eventually ended up in Israel, and finally in the 1960’s Mrs. Kor married an American holocaust survivor and moved to Terre Haute. In the 1970’s she shared her story on an NBC television series on the Holocaust, led efforts to locate other survivors of Mengele’s experiments, as well as to expose the truth about Mengele and to find Mengele, who had fled to South America after the war.
What grabbed my attention was the headline over Mrs. Kor’s obituary: “Holocaust survivor, forgiveness advocate Eva Mozes Kor”… forgiveness advocate. In 1995 she announced that she had decided to forgive Mengele and the Nazis. “Through forgiveness, she discovered that she had regained power over her own life. The burden of victimhood that she had carried for fifty years was finally lifted.” Further, her obituary states, Mrs. Kor urged listeners “to never give up, be kind, forgive, and choose to make the world a better place every day. She wanted to impart to all people the value of kindness, perseverance, and belief in their self-worth.” (Obituary, Tribune-Star, 9 July 2019)
Mrs. Kor is admirable for forgiving her bitter enemies, who showed no mercy or compassion to her or her sister, wicked men who had instantly stripped them of their parents and other family members, and then performed gruesome experiments on their bodies. To publicly forgive such evil is for sure a glimpse of the mercy that the Heavenly Father shows and that Jesus calls His disciples to: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (St. Luke 6.27)
Sadly, there is no mention of anything spiritual or religious in Mrs. Kor’s obituary, not one mention of faith or Scriptures, not one rabbi mentioned if she was Jewish, not one minister if she had become a Christian. Only a funeral and visitation at the funeral home, a burial, and two memorial services in August at Tilson Auditorium here and Clowes Hall in Indianapolis. I just cannot know what was in Mrs. Kor’s heart – how she came to be a “forgiveness advocate” in such a way – only God knows that.
There is a big difference between the world’s forgiveness and the Father’s. Good intentioned people in the world forgive others or advocate for forgiveness expecting some kind of return on their investment – that they strive to make the world a better place – or that they forgive their enemies to re-find their lost self-worth, or to unburden themselves from being someone else’s victim.
Meanwhile, our Heavenly Father is after a better place too, but not just to make the current creation brighter, but to bring about a truly new creation. The coming of Christ had been promised from the time of the fall to redeem us from the futility of this cursed world and our own sinful flesh. If not for the promise of the Father, the world would have long since been destroyed. The groaning of the creation would indeed have long ago led to its destruction. All mercy that the Father shows is for Christ’s sake.
So I would love for the newspapers and such to tell us about some heavenly forgiveness advocates. The ones that bring about true hope for tomorrow, the glory of God, our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies, glory that far outweighs all the sufferings of this present time.
The first forgiveness advocate from heaven is our dear Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, the one mediator or advocate between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all. (1 Tim 2.4-5) He is the priest forever before the Father, who always lives to make intercession for sinners and so is able to save them “to the uttermost.” (Hebrews 7.25) Jesus appears before the Father with His own blood advocating for our forgiveness for the sake of that blood. (Hebrews 9.24) If anyone does sin, St. John says, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous, the propitiation for our sins, and for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2.1-2)
The great and true forgiveness advocate is the Man who gave His life and shed His blood for His brothers’ sake freely, without their asking for it, so that they might be called Sons of the Most High with Him.
The second forgiveness advocate in our lives as Christians is the Holy Spirit. “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you,” says Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings us Christ’s forgiveness in His holy Church, and through the preaching and teaching of Jesus’ Word, drives us forward where our flesh is unwilling and weak. Today, we hear that we are to practice forgiveness of even our enemies, that we are forbidden to set ourselves up as judges of other men by glorying in ourselves and despising others, and every day we all know how it would feel so good to unleash judgment and condemnation upon those who hurt, harm, abuse, slander, and bring about shame and cross-bearing upon you and those you love. But we are to leave judgment to Him who judges righteously.
Lord, let me win my foes with kindly words and actions, and let me find good friends for counsel and correction. Help me as You have taught, to love both great and small and by Your Spirit’s might to live in peace with all. (LSB 696, stanza 4)
This is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians, your faith in Christ flourishing in lives of service and mercy for neighbors who do not always deserve it. To forgive the unforgivable. To give to those who’ll never give back. The reward for this work is given for the sake of Christ’s merit. The measure God gives you is glimpsed now in the daily bread He gives freely, and in forgiveness freely reckoned to you for Jesus’s sake. But at the end of time, when the new creation comes forth, it will overflow into your lap, and for all eternity God will not hold back. Reckon with the Apostle, with Joseph, and with your Lord that the sufferings of the present time are not even minutely close to outweighing the glory that is to be revealed in us.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +