Sermon for Pentecost 17 – 10.2.22

+ 17th Sunday after Pentecost – October 2nd, 2022 +

Series C: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; 2 timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:1-10

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 

“Forgiveness and Faith”

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

If you wanted to summarize Jesus’ teaching in this morning’s reading from Luke 17, you could do it in two words: Forgiveness and Faith. Jesus shifts the focus from the Pharisees back to his disciples, and apostles.

 

Jesus said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!  It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

 

Jesus begins with forgiveness. Not God’s forgiveness of us, but our forgiveness of the fellow believer who sins against us. It’s one thing to say, “I believe God forgives me, that He takes away all my sins, and doesn’t hold them against me.” And that’s true. God forgives our sins, graciously and outrageously even. The stumbling block Jesus warns against here, however, is when someone repents and there’s unforgiveness. After all, it’s quite another thing to forgive when we’re the ones sinned against. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.” (Mere Christianity).

 

And yet, Jesus says, “you must forgive him.” The only antidote to sin is forgiveness. Unforgiveness simply perpetuates and amplifies sin. When we refuse to forgive our brother or sister seven times in a day for the same sin, we’re not only hurting them by denying them forgiveness, we’re also hurting ourselves. We’re calling into question the whole notion that forgiveness is unmerited, undeserved grace.

 

Jesus is teaching his disciples that his church is to be known as a mouth-house of God’s undeserved forgiveness for outrageous sinners. That is our aim as a congregation and in our vocation. It’s our hope and prayer that when people in our community think about Beautiful Savior, or when they come into contact with you in your daily life, that one of the first things that comes to mind is that this is a place of God’s forgiveness, and we are a people of forgiveness. People who are forgiven much, love much. And forgive much.

 

This is the way of life in God’s Kingdom. God in Christ has forgiven you, and continues to forgive you entirely without any merit on worthiness on your part. He forgives you knowing full well you’ll sin again. He forgives you recognizing that you are a justified sinner, a sinner declared righteous, one who is both sinful and righteous at one and the same time. He forgives you entirely for Jesus’ sake, on account of His blood, His death, His perfect life.

 

Forgiveness, like faith, doesn’t come from within us. It flows from the merciful heart of Christ and flows through you to those around you. Jesus reconciles us sinners to the Father, and He reconciles us to our brother or sister who has sinned against us too.

 

After hearing Jesus’ words on forgiveness, it’s easy to see why the apostles cried out, “Lord, increase our faith.” 

 

The disciples asked Jesus to add to their faith. Notice what Jesus doesn’t say about faith. He doesn’t pull a page out of the TV preacher’s sermon and say, “Listen guys, if you just had more faith – Costco toilet paper size faith – you could do anything.” No. Jesus says the opposite:

 

If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

 

Ironically, Jesus says we need small faith. Not big faith. Faith like a mustard seed. And the thing about seeds is that they’re small, often hidden from sight. A seed doesn’t grow by watching it. You plant it in the ground, it’s hidden in the dirt for months, and eventually it grows.

 

So it is with faith. Jesus doesn’t give us faith so that we admire and boast in ourselves. He gives us faith like a mustard seed. Faith that is hidden in the tree of his cross. Faith that we’re buried with him, like a seed, in the dirt of his tomb, and sprung to life in his resurrection. Faith that comes by the sowing of Jesus’ word in our ears, and is planted and takes root in our heart, soul, and mind. Faith which is fed, forgiven, and nourished by Jesus’ body and blood. Faith, that by God’s grace we would grow and live in faith towards God and fervent love towards one another. Fervent forgiveness for one another.

 

Lord, increase our faith,” the disciples said. The disciples got it half right anyhow. They recognized what we so often recognize when we come face to face with God’s word: if faith is required, I don’t have enough. Thankfully, faith is something God works in you, not something you work in yourself.

 

The disciples, as they usually do, also got it wrong however. Faith can’t be sized or quantified. It’s not a matter of big faith or little faith. It’s not like ordering a super-size meal at McDonald’s or leveling up with a mushroom in Mario Brothers. Faith looks to Christ, not ourselves. And the moment we take our eyes off Christ and focus inward, on ourselves, we’re like Wiley Coyote when he realizes he’s off the cliff running in mid-air. Faith in ourselves will always fail.

 

Thankfully, faith – like forgiveness – is God’s free, unmerited, gracious gift. Hebrews says we look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. The faith God requires, he gives, freely and abundantly, just like he does his gift of forgiveness.

 

Jesus, our merciful master of forgiveness and faith. Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for you. He’s the Suffering Servant who bears our sins. He’s the sinless Son who became sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus is the merciful Master who calls His servants from the field at the end of the day and doesn’t interrogate them over what they’ve done or haven’t done. He doesn’t make them wait on Him. He serves them. He invites you to His table. He washes your feet. He feeds you with His food and drink. While we’re busy saying, “We are unworthy servants,” Jesus says to you today, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It’s all by God’s free, unearned, unmerited, undeserved, gracious gifts of Forgiveness and Faith.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

Church Office Hours

Monday - Thursday 8:30am-3:30pm

Friday 8:30am-11:30am

The office is closed on Fridays during the summer months of June, July, and August.

Preschool Office Hours

August - May
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
8:30am-12:30pm

By appointment only June and July

Contact

Address
2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
Phone
(253) 922-6977
Fax
(253) 922-6977