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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

  1. By Giving His Law to Guide Us in Our Responsibilities
  2. By Giving His Law to Bring Us to Repentance
  3. By Giving the Good News to Bring Us Forgiveness
SERMON TEXT:  Ezekiel 33:7-11

As for you, son of man, I have appointed you to be a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you are to warn them from me. When I say to a wicked man, “Wicked man, you shall surely die,” if you do not speak to warn the wicked man against his way, that wicked man will die because of his guilt, but I will also hold you responsible for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die because of his guilt, but you will have saved your life. So you, son of man, say this to the house of Israel. This is what you are saying, “Certainly our rebellions and our transgressions weigh upon us, and because of them, we are rotting away. How then can we live?” Say to them, “As surely as I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Instead, I take pleasure if the wicked turn from their way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why should you die, O house of Israel?” This is the word of God.

It’s always important in times of conflict to have somebody watching out for you. There’s the saying in the military and law enforcement I got your six. In other words, I’m at 6 o’clock. I’m watching behind you. You might tell a friend, I got your back. It’s important to know that somebody is watching for danger that might be approaching. Picture yourself living in a walled city like ancient Jerusalem. You’d feel pretty secure because of the walls that are built up, but the thing about the walls as they also block your vision so that if somebody is coming, say on invading army like the Assyrians, like the Babylonian sword, the Egyptians, or the Philistines. They could sneak right up to the wall. They could attack you and you wouldn’t know what was hitting you. That’s why it was very important for them to have watchmen up on top of the wall. The bulletin cover has the little profile of a rabbi blowing a horn. That horn is called a [shofar]. It’s actually made out of the horn of a ram, that is hollowed out. When they blow it, it makes a very distinct sound, and that sound will warn the city people that there is danger approaching. You can imagine how important that role was. If the watchman would fall asleep and the enemy would attack it would be a very bad day.

God, because he loves us has put people into our lives, who tell us the truth. People who will warn us if there is danger approaching. People that God has placed into our lives to keep us safe. And in fact, God has put us into other people’s lives because we have an important role in keeping them safe and in warning them from danger that is approaching. Now we live in what, most people consider a very civilized society. We don’t have too many armies roaming the countryside looking to invade our territory or our space. Okay there is street crime and there are certain places in the world that have situations like that, but that doesn’t really affect us here in the United States. Instead wouldn’t you agree with me that the enemies that threaten our well-being are a lot more sneaky? A lot more insidious? The armies of people in the world that will try to do three things. One is they dangle shiny objects in front of us. They try to attract us with all kinds of things that seem like pleasures, and that seemed very important, and seem like great treasures. And once we chase after them, and we lose our vision, and we lose our focus on Christ and God’s word, then the world will try to tell us that your sin has been so great that how can God really love you, or forgive you anymore? Then, the world tries to lead us further away. And instead of being worried about sin and instead of being concerned about our relationship to God, that eventually we become so far removed from even thinking about God, that our conscience doesn’t bother us anymore when we sin. We don’t crave that relationship with God anymore. That situation has happened to more and more people in our culture. Where people no longer even feel the need to identify with any kind of faith or any kind of spiritual group. You know one of the distinctive things about the Lutheran Church is that the Lutheran Church focuses like a laser beam on the two main doctrines of Scripture. The first one, of course, is the law, and the Lutheran Church following the example of Martin Luther seeks to preach the law and all of its severity because of how important it is. Just think about that the perfect nature of God’s law. Boil it down to two commandments like Jesus did if you want.
1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul with all your strength with all your mind.
2. The second love your neighbor as yourself.
Can you imagine the kind of world we would live in if everybody followed those commands? Can you imagine if everybody that you met inside your house and outside your house, when you’re out on the street meeting strangers, or when you’re with close friends, when you’re here at the church, or when you’re out in the world? If everybody showed that they were living a life or trying their best to live a life that was pleasing to God, and glorifying him, and was also treating you like you want to be treated because they want to be treated that way as well? That would pretty well take care of all crime wouldn’t it all the judges all the police officers all the lawyers would all be out of work, and hat would necessarily be a bad thing. We’d have no need for armies because nations would treat each other because they would all be filled with people following the golden rule. If everybody obeyed those two commandments this would actually be heaven wouldn’t it, but you’ve been around long enough you know that this ain’t heaven. This place is not heavenly. No, we certainly live in a world that is fallen. A world that is under the curse of sin ever since Adam and Eve took a bite from that fruit that God had said don’t eat of it. With sin came death. Yes, death is the result of sin there wouldn’t be any death, no disaster, no calamities or catastrophes. If it weren’t for sin filling this world. And not only does sin affect us in a very broad way, but sin affects each of us individually doesn’t it? We’re all hurt by sin. And then doesn’t it hurt even worse when we find out how we have hurt other people. Maybe with some of our careless words. Maybe we spoke in anger instead of thinking about what we should say to our spouses. Maybe we came we became so frustrated with our children that we said things that immediately we wish we could erase from their memories. It just doesn’t work that way. Then our consciences testify against us, speaking the truth that God is a holy God, and that God hates sin, that God threatens sinners with punishment. That’s what the law says each one of us and as uncomfortable as it might make us especially in a society like ours that does not want to hear about sin unless it’s certain kinds of sin like intolerance.

We live in a time when confrontation is not the norm and so it really strikes us. I’ve talked to people who come into the Lutheran Church and they find it very odd that we confess our sins during every worship service and then hear God’s forgiveness. They find it very odd that sermons go through this procedure the date they come to realize they can expect this in almost every sermon, there’s going to be a talk about sin, and a talk about grace, a talk about punishment and then a talk about forgiveness. Yes, that’s very deliberate because that’s the message we need to hear. The law of God that is held up in front of our faces is like that watchman standing up on the mountain. And the messengers of God are warning us, REPENT before bad things happen! Turn from your wicked ways and live. And that really is what God desires. The very end of our reading from Ezekiel 33:11 says, “Turn back, turn back…” That’s a picture of repentance, and that’s exactly what repentance means. It means to turn from a direction that is turned away from God, the direction of sin, and turning back to God and seeking his forgiveness. Listening to his word and having faith in his promise. Turn back… why will you die, O house of Israel?” God does not take pleasure in sending people to hell. God takes pleasure when people repent of their sins. When people receive forgiveness. This is the whole reason that Jesus came into the world because he wanted to give his life as a sacrifice for all people.

That’s the pleasurable part of being a watchman. I can imagine that the watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem would what take some pleasure in calling out at sunset and then again at sunrise that all is well. And you and I have that privilege, don’t we? That we can speak to anyone who turns away from sin. Anyone whom we have had the opportunity and even the obligation to warn. When they express their repentance we can say to them all is well. We don’t have to turn them to their own works and tell them you have to try harder. They don’t have to say a certain number of Hail Mary’s or Our Father’s. They don’t have to buy an indulgence. They don’t have to do anything. God has done it all.

If you are a sinner, and I know you are. No, I’m not peering in your bedroom window, but I know that you are a sinner, because I am, and we all are. I know this that every single sin that you and I and every other human being has committed was nailed to that cross and that cross took care of them. The sins are as far removed from us as the east is from the west. That’s how far God has removed our guilt from us and we get to share that message with one another. What a privilege that is. What a high honor that is. One that I hope you will take very seriously.

You want to give Jesus pleasure.?You want to make angels dance? Share the good news.

Amen

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

  1. By Giving His Law to Guide Us in Our Responsibilities
  2. By Giving His Law to Bring Us to Repentance
  3. By Giving the Good News to Bring Us Forgiveness
SERMON TEXT:  Ezekiel 33:7-11

See First Lesson Below


Bible Readings

FIRST LESSON:  Ezekiel 33:7-11

As for you, son of man, I have appointed you to be a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you are to warn them from me. When I say to a wicked man, “Wicked man, you shall surely die,” if you do not speak to warn the wicked man against his way, that wicked man will die because of his guilt, but I will also hold you responsible for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die because of his guilt, but you will have saved your life. So you, son of man, say this to the house of Israel. This is what you are saying, “Certainly our rebellions and our transgressions weigh upon us, and because of them we are rotting away. How then can we live?” Say to them, “As surely as I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Instead I take pleasure if the wicked turn from their way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why should you die, O house of Israel?”

SECOND LESSON:  Galatians 2:11–21

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly wrong. For before some people came from James, he ate with the Gentiles. But when those people came, he drew back and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision group. And the rest of the Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting according to the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all of them, “If you, a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, why do you compel the Gentiles to live like the Jews?” “We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners. We know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. So we also believed in Christ Jesus that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were also found to be sinners, then is Christ a servant of sin? Certainly not! “In fact, if I build up again those things that I destroyed, I bring on myself the judgment of being a lawbreaker. Indeed, through the law I died to the law that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I am now living in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not regard the grace of God as nothing. As a matter of fact, if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing!”

VERSE OF THE DAY:  Philippians 4:4

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice

GOSPEL: Matthew 18:15–20

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his sin just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And, if he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as an unbeliever or a tax collector. Amen I tell you: Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Amen I tell you again: If two of you on earth agree to ask for anything, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. In fact where two or three have gathered together in my name, there I am among them.”

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