Sunday, October 16, 2011
How Often Will My Brother Sin Against Me?
If you would like to hear the sermon preached at Trinity Lutheran Church in Layton, Utah for the Third Sunday in Michaelmastide, "How Often Will My Brother Sin Against Me?" click on this MP3 audio link.
Have a blessed week in the Lord knowing that His answer to the question, "How often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?" is "Every time, dear brother."
A servant of the Word and His folk,
Here is a rough preaching manuscript if you prefer to read along or read instead.
TEXT: Matthew 18:21-35 21Peter came up and said to [Jesus], "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
Dear baptized, forgiven children of God,
How often will my brother sin against me?
That is how we are prone to frame the question, isn't it? Forget the forgiveness part. Woe is me. Everybody is against me. And so they are.
How often will my brother sin against me? Every time. Often.
Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Jesus answer is, "Everytime. Often"
This is the good work of the Christian. Forget $$$ contributions. Forget time and labor spent. Forget whatever help and aid you have ever rendered. The apple to the teacher. The giving up the last slice of pizza.
Forgiveness is the fruit of faith and the good work for which we were created in Christ Jesus . . . , which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [Ephesians 2:10]
Forgiveness is the love [Paul prays for in our Epistle that it] may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Forgiveness is that of which the prophet Micah speaks, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Apart from the forgiveness of sins there simply is no good work; nothing excellent; nothing pure and blameless; no righteousness or fruit of righteousness; no justice; no kindness; no love.
To walk humbly with your God, according to His statues is to not even ask the question, How Often Will My Brother Sin Against Me?" Much less the "and I forgive him," part.
The First table of the Law (Commandments 1-3) is all about your forgiveness—for that is who the only true God along side of Him there is no other is—the forgiving God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Second table of the Law (Commandments 4-10) is all about our forgiving our neighbor. At the same time it reminds us that every sin our brother often commits against us, is also the sin that we commit against our brothers—and sisters, and fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors, not to mention competitors and enemies.
So we pray in THE FIFTH PETITION of the Lord's Prayer:
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. What does this mean? We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins nor deny such petitions on account of them. We are not worthy of any of the things for which we pray, neither have we deserved them. But we pray that He would grant them all to us by grace. For we daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. So will we truly, on our part, also heartily forgive and readily do good to those who sin against us.
"Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?" Often. Every time.
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." [Matthew 19:25-26]
This is why Church is so important. For as we confess in the Third Article of the Creed, in Church God the Holy Spirit "calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers." This is why in the Third Commandment God tells us to "remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy"--which means that we do "not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it." For the forgiveness in which we are to live and move and have our being is only given to us in His Word as it is proclaimed and delivered in His holy Christian Church.
Take a look at the bulletin cover. Here you see the answer hanging below the question, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?
The Son of God is begotten, crucified, risen, and ascended from all eternity to answer that for you in the same way every time: "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
"Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?" Often. Every time. Why? Because you are forgiven all of your sins and this is what it means to live in the kingdom of heaven—now and forever--in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.