The 14th Sunday after Trinity
5 September 2010
St. Luke 17:11-19
In the Holy Name of Jesus.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”
So how do you stand up against that list? If you say that none of them apply to you - you are a liar - plain and simple - and then you can add lying to the list as well.
Sexual immorality - does God’s Holy Law condemn you for your sexual sins of the present or the past? How about enmity and strife with others - does God’s Holy Law condemn you for your sinful fits of anger and your hatred of others? What about rivalries, dissension and division - does God’s Holy Law convict you of your pettiness - your divisiveness in the Body of Christ? And then there is jealousy, envy and being drunk - does God’s Holy Law condemn you in your jealous envy and your Godless drunken partying? God’s Law certainly should condemn you on all counts - it certainly does to me. That is what God’s Law is there to do - to show you your sin.
Those, St. Paul say, are the works of the flesh - that part of us which wars against God’s Holy Spirit - our sinful, fallen nature that is opposed to God and the things of God. But there is even more, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
And there you have it - plains and simple. Your sin puts you in Hell. That is what you are good for - that is what you are fit for - the rubbish heap - the fire. That is where your sin rightfully puts you. And for that sin you need to repent.
But it is not just your sin that hurts you and separates you from God - it is also most certainly the sins of others against you that hurt you and threaten to separate you from God.
Listen again to what is written in Proverbs, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.”
Not only must you contend with your sin in this fallen world - but also the pain of those who have sinned against you - abused you. Those who have done wrong to you - those who have made you stumble. Have you been abused - physically, sexually or emotionally? Does the guilt and shame of that still haunt you? Have you been slandered, lied about or cheated? Have you been humiliated and hurt? The sins of others against you can also separate you from God - for your guilt and shame over what others have done can drive you from Him, and the devil uses the opportunity to try and convince you that you are worthless, damaged, unloved. For this you do not need to repent - indeed you cannot very well repent of someone else’s sin - but you do need to be blessed - to be healed - to be restored.
And what is the answer to all of this? The answer to these problems is not moralism - indeed the answer to sin - our own and that of others against is - is never and can never be mere moralism - despite what popular, feel-good Christianity might say. We are told by many that we must, ‘do better, try harder, be a better Christian, be a true disciple, have more faith and so on.’ They might even use the very words of Scripture from our text about the Fruits of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” And they will say, ‘Get busy doing those things and you’ll get in good with God.’ But as hard as we try, as much as we might want to, we just keep right on sinning - hurting ourselves and abusing each other.
No the answer is not moralism. Hear again what is written in Proverbs, “My son, be attentive to my words, incline your ears to my sayings... for they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.” And hear again St. Paul’s words to the legalistic Galatian Christians, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
The answer to the guilt of our sin and the shame of our abuse is Christ-crucified and the life-giving and healing Word that He speaks and gives, which we receive by faith in Him alone.
In the well known Holy Gospel for today we see what true faith is in the Samaritan: nothing more and nothing less than coming empty handed to Jesus and receiving His gifts, and recognizing and thanking Jesus and Him alone for them. And when we receive Jesus’ gifts in trust and with gratitude, then we can’t help but be joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled - because we are in Christ. That is what it means when it says that those are the Fruits of the Spirit. Before you can bring forth the Fruits of the Spirit, you first have to have the Spirit through the gift of Holy Baptism.
So do St. Paul’s words about immorality, idolatry, anger, drunkenness apply to you? Yes they do. And the answer to that is to receive the good gifts of Jesus - repent and receive Him in His Word, in His Body and Blood, in the forgiveness and life that He offers you in these gifts and let Him take your sin and guilt away. Have you been abused, wronged, made to stumble by others? Yes you have. Then be blessed in the certainty that Christ has borne all those things with and for you. Receive Him in His Word, in His Body and Blood, in the blessings and life that He offers you in these gifts and let Him take your hurt and your shame away.
“Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well,” is just another way of saying, “Jesus has made you well.” There is no healing or saving faith apart from Him. So on this day receive His gifts of healing and forgiveness again. And if you do not come and receive them regularly, recommit yourself to doing so again here today. Do not be like the nine who receive the gifts and then go away thankless - never to return. Receive them as those who know you need to receive them more and more - more Jesus - more healing - more life - more forgiveness.
That is what God wants to give you in Jesus Christ, whose words are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
In the Holy Name of Jesus.