Sunday, September 4, 2011
The Lord Lifts Up the Lowly
Dear Saints of God,
If you would like to hear the sermon preached at Trinity Lutheran Church in Layton, Utah for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, "The Lord Lifts Up the Lowly," click on this MP3 audio link. The audio includes the Hymn of the Day, LSB #559, "Oh, How Great Is Your Compassion." The sermon begins at the 3:14 mark.
Have a great week in Christ as He lifts you up and gives you eternal life by His holy Word.
A servant of the Word and His folk,
Here the preaching manuscript if you prefer to read along or read instead.
TEXT: 9[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14
The Lord lifts up the lowly—and only the lowly.
What better example of this than little Kaden this morning.
Sadly, there are many more opposite examples. You think we do not have Pharisees today?
A couple called me a little over a week ago wanting to have their 8 mo. old baby daughter blessed. I asked them to come in and meet with me so we could talk about it.
We met last Saturday. Turns out both parents were baptized Lutheran, one at the very same font at which Kaden was baptized today. Neither were brought to church or taught the Word of God by their parents afterward.
Not surprisingly, then, when I asked them just what it was they expected me to do for their child in blessing her, they didn't really know. So I took them through the explanation of Baptism in the Small Catechism, as well as showing them the oprder of Baptism in our hymnal—the order by which little Kaden was born again by the Holy Spirit into the kingdom heaven this very morning.
I gave them copies of both and asked them to study them together in private at home and come back to have any questions answered and decide how to proceed.
When I called them back, they told me that I had made them uncomfortable. The baby's father said, "You made us feel like sinners."
"Well, you are. So am I. So is your baby daughter. That's why we have baptisms. We talked about that right? I'm not going to baptize a baby only to have you, her parents take her away from Christ's church and apart from God."
But what was it that turned these parents off? It was the Word of God in Luther's Small Catechism explanation to Baptism and the order of Baptism itself. You heard the order of Baptism today. Now let's review and confess Luther's Small Catechism explanation to Baptism together.
Small Catechism Explanation of Baptism--LSB, p. 325:
IV. THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY BAPTISM
As the Head of the Family Should Teach It in a Simple Way to His Household
What is Baptism? Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God's command and combined with God's Word.
Which is that Word of God? Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" [Matthew 28:19].
What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Which are these words and promises of God? Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" [Mark 16:16].
How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things, along with faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without God's Word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus chapter three, "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying." [vv. 5-8].
What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written? St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter 6: "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." [v. 4]
It is difficult to witness anybody reject the love of God when it is offered. How sad that after showing these parents what God has done for them in Baptism and what He wants to do for their baby girl that "You made us feel like sinners."
So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:14
But what do we teach our little ones if we baptize them only to never bring them back to hear the Word of God and receive His forgiveness again?
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." [Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2]
Now I do not want to be too hard on these parents. After all, they don't know any better. How could they? It is only what they were taught by their parents, and what their parents were taught by their parents.
"I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." Exodus 20:5-6
This little girl is now the fourth generation. But at least now this family has heard the Word of God. They have been warned and told what God has for them, what He wants for them..
And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me: 17(AB) "Son of man,(AC) I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall(AD) give them warning from me. 18(AE) If I say to the wicked,(AF) 'You shall surely die,'(AG) and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person(AH) shall die for[d] his iniquity,(AI) but his blood I will require at your hand. 19(AJ) But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity,(AK) but you(AL) will have delivered your soul. 20(AM) Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice,(AN) and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die.(AO) Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin,(AP) and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. 21But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul." Ezekiel 3:16-21
But I am not telling you this to pound my chest like the Pharisee and make that family look like the tax collector of Jesus parable. As I told them, I am sinner too. I need what Baptism gives. And so do you. I am telling you this as a warning and as encouragement to you.
You and I not only need what God gives in Baptism gives, but what God keeps on giving to the Baptized in the worship life of the Church in the Divine Service and the Sacrament of the Altar. Without these things to keep us with Christ in our Baptism, we simply cannot remain in faith, because faith is always receiving, must always be receiving or it is not faith.
Church and worship and the sacraments are not about what we give to God, but what He gives to us. He does not need to be told how great or amazing He is.
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:5-7
And having done that on Calvary, He sends the Holy Spirit to continue to be our servant today in His Holy Christian Church.
So in the DS we begin with the same Word and name of God by which we were born again into the kingdom of heaven. We confess that we are indeed sinners, and are forgiven. We sing the Kyrie, and God has mercy. We hear the Word preached to repent and receive the kingdom of God and we do—at the Lord's table.
Dear Baptized, rather than saying, "thank you that I am not like other me," God grant us ever to plead, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Yes, the Lord lifts up the lowly. He has lifted Kaden up through the water of Holy Baptism--and He is lifting you up as well in the absolution, the preaching, and the Sacrament of the Divine Service today—by forgiving you all your sins He is opening the kingdom of heaven to you and giving you eternal life -- the name of the Father ,and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen