This sermon addresses something that I think we all are falling into wrongly and that is judging people by group standing. With God there is no collective righteousness, neither is there collective damnation. The Lord says, “I will judge each of you according to his ways.” Unlike our natural ways, comparative and collective, God doesn’t engage in comparison. Your neighbor’s sins are nothing but a mirror that reflects our own unworthiness. Your neighbor’s righteousness can’t be transferred to you. What God is interested in is you. None of us will avoid the judgement. The question is will we be found fruitless or fruitful. Whether we are talking about the general providence of God the Father, or the saving grace of the God the son, we have been given our daily bread. We have been given the care and feeding needed to be fruitful, personally fruitful. That starts with repentance. This sermon develops these themes around the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard.
Any fat, dumb and happy preacher (like yours truly) should shy away from preaching on suffering. But that was the essence of the text in front of us. And the Old Testament text basic said don’t chicken out. So, this is my attempt to proclaim the Word in regards to the role of suffering in the world and in the life of the Christian. I believe this to be right and true. I also believe it to be full of hope.
Today is one of those days that stuff happening in the service is real important. We had a baptism this morning, and when you have a baptism you have an invaluable object lesson. That is absent from the recording, but you will hear it used a couple of times in the sermon.
From the text there is an overriding theme in the spirit of Lent – repentance. But the gospel text itself is abrupt. A report of a happening, a strong reaction to that report by Jesus and then a parable. This is one of the places where we as readers and hearers of the gospel really have to puzzle it out. Why would they bring this report to Jesus? What was their point? Jesus’ response gives us some clues, but the larger context of Luke which last week’s sermon look at as gives us a good idea of what was being asserted.
The crux of the issue is line drawing. Where is the line drawn that creates the division Jesus claims to have brought? Jesus’ answer is grace. The sermon examines the difference between mercy and grace and attempts to show why grace is that line of division. But the people of that day, just like the people of our day, like drawn their own lines. We draw lines that place us on the deserving side. Whether those are lines of race, or class or language or people or behavior. It can’t be grace, because we are on the right side.
Jesus answer is a clear nobody is on the right side. “Unless you all repent, you likewise will perish.”
The application of this is my attempt at encouragement and example of a proper repentance.
Worship Note: I have left in two of the hymns sung today. Lutheran Service Book 611 Chief of Sinners Though I Be, and LSB 610 Lord Jesus, Think on Me. It was a day of rich hymns because I loved our opening hymn and the baptismal hymn as well which all spoke the same gospel, but I left these two in the recording in their places as hymns of the life of repentance.