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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sermon 08192012 11th Sunday After Trinity

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray, Gracious heavenly Father, when we enter Your house where Your Glory dwells, where it is to be a house of prayer, we choose where we will sit and where we will stand.  Enable us to understand it is not where we sit or stand, but what proceeds from our hearts.  For the Law clearly condemns us and we cannot be saved by it, but the Gospel of salvation offered through Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross of Calvary offers all of mankind eternal life.  Especially all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Jesus Christ clearly loves to tell stories, whether it be about sowing crops and the harvest, heaven and hell and the Rich Man and Lazarus, stories of grace and mercy like the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son or like this morning the story of the Pharisee and Tax Collector.  Jesus takes many opportunities to tell a story.  Not that different from movies in our local theater, the stories Jesus tells are given to us today to hear, head and help us change.  Jesus in telling stories has a definite audience in mind, a clear purpose, a desired outcome and a final goal.

Jesus told the story of the Pharisee and Tax Collector to a specific audience.  Luke writes, “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt”.  Jesus with the attribute of God of omniscience knew what the people needed to hear.  Jesus Christ had the ability to look at the people and see the deepest secrets of their hearts and clearly the people He was around trusted, not in God or His mercy and compassion, but in their own abilities, their own righteousness and these people felt they were better than everyone else and everybody in the community knew it.  Jesus audience looked down with disdain upon other people and believed they were ‘elite’.  This gathering wasn’t the elite Seal Team Six, Delta Force or the Rangers, it was just a group of men, women and children ‘who trusted in themselves’ and ‘flaunted it’ and ‘held it over’ other people.

Jesus says, “10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  These two men were common people for Jerusalem in Jesus day.  Even today their contemporaries would be someone who is both religiously and politically connected and the individual that works for the government that we vote into office to receive our tax money for our cars, land and personal property.

But now the similarities end, Jesus continues, “11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’”.  Jesus seeing the heart of the people aimed with the precision of a sniper directly at the people’s hearts the bullet that not only labeled their ‘self-righteouseness’ a sin, but clearly hits the mark that sin not just exists, but they are guilty of it.  For the Pharisee clearly compares himself to others and believes he is better than anyone and everyone.  He is bragging about what he does.  He is telling God this is what I have done.  I fast twice a week, I pay tithes”, “I am better than everybody”, “even like this tax collector”.

Jesus purpose in telling this story was to expose the Pharisee.  The Pharisee had so much pride and arrogance of what he did, he did not feel he wanted nor needed any help.  The Pharisee felt he was righteous and said, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people”.  Jesus desire was to expose this clear and manifest sin of pride that the Pharisee flaunted and that the people lived.

On the other hand there is the tax collector.  Jesus says, “13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!  This is the polar opposite of the Pharisee.  Jesus purpose was to tell the people, this tax collector felt so unworthy he couldn’t even look up to address God.  His simple statement of “God be merciful to me, the sinner!” is not only a prayer, but a pleading and asking for forgiveness from God.

Jesus desired outcome is for the people to confess their manifest sin and simply rely upon God.  For the people in hearing and identifying with the two polar opposites and extremes of the Pharisee and the tax collector Jesus wants to change their collective hearts from prideful and arrogant hearts, to pliable and purposeful hearts not proclaiming their greatness, but relying upon God.  For this is the lesson we can take away from this parable, Jesus says, “I tell you, this man, [the tax collector] went to his house justified rather than the other”.  The tax collector who humbled himself, didn’t rely upon what he gave, what he did or how he did it, the tax collector was held in higher regard by Jesus Christ.  For Jesus says, “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled”, meaning the Pharisee will be humbled.  And, “he who humbles himself will be exalted”, meaning the tax collector.  Jesus is clear, rely upon God, not upon yourself.

Now the question we get to ask today is which are we?  Are we prideful of what we have done?  Do we go out into the community and look down upon others?  Is Emmanuel Lutheran seen in the community as elite and unwilling to help?  Do we leave Emmanuel Lutheran and go to the Butterfly, Shira’s, McDonald’s, Gambino’s or the Mexican restaurant and look down upon others, because we have been to church or given an offering?  Do we believe we can save ourselves and do not need a Savior?  Do we believe we are sinless and not in need of a Savior?

Jesus has one final goal in mind, for all of mankind to be in heaven with Him.  And this story of the Pharisee and the tax collector calls for us not to be prideful or arrogant, but in true servant fashion with Jesus Christ as our model to ask God for mercy and grace and for all of us to pray “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  God is calling us to be humble in spirit and rely solely upon Him.  When we pray, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”  God hears our prayer and embraces us as His children.  God feeds us with this precious meal we are about to receive of His Precious Body and Blood.  And God strengthens us to encounter our community and minister to and for others, not to be arrogant and say, ‘look what I’ or ‘look what we’ have done, but allows His grace to flow through us to others.  And that grace freely offered to us through Jesus Christ innocent death on Calvary we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer.

As we pray the Lord’s Prayer in a few minutes, “forgive us our trespasses”, our prayer is not only a prayer of confession like the tax collector, it is a prayer asking for God’s mercy, grace and divine favor.  We pray to God asking for His mercy, the free grace offered in Jesus Christ on Calvary and His divine favor to be placed upon us and showered over us.  We ask God to look not at our sins of pride, arrogance, self- worth and self- acclamation, but as we humble ourselves to exalt us.  For God promises us He will when we humble ourselves by confessing our sins, God will exalt us.  It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, it may not be in this lifetime, but when we enter His kingdom, which is God’s final goal for us, and partake of the feast in His presence, then we will be exalted.  This occurs, not because of what we have done, but because of Jesus Christ true humility to suffer and die for all of our sins, for all of mankind.  Including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.
//trial script