Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Menominee - Michigan
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 12, 2016
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
As I have now settled into the church and home, I have this spring again taken up an old pastime of mine, and that would be fishing, something which I simply didn’t have the time for in recent years, especially living in rather land locked Iowa and Illinois residences.
And I will freely admit that it hasn’t been a graceful recovery of what were somewhat limited fishing skills to start with. Finding the good spots, remembering what kind and size of bait to use, as well as cleaning and filleting continue to be works in progress for me. I have no doubt that my renewed passion will not be totally extinguished before I begin to find some kind of consistent success in my endeavors. There’s got to be some fish out there that are going to chase after and bite into my lures, right?
Which is a wonderful way to describe how scripture catches us. In our scripture readings for this morning it is as if the Bible sets us up as the readers and hearers, with a lure as well, a lure which we swallow hook, line and sinker. I say this because I believe that our scriptures, most specifically our Gospel lesson this morning, lure us into God’s arena, and that is they lure us into passing judgment.
In our first reading, we are lured into judging David for carrying out his plan to eliminate Uriah the Hittite and steal his wife, Bathsheba. We are then lured into believing that he is receiving his due justice through the death of the child that comes out of this infidelity. In our Galatians reading, Paul teases us into judging the Gentile sinners, separating us from the unbelievers. And lastly, and most prominently, in our Gospel lesson this morning, Luke lures us into judging Simon, making us believe that we never would have made those same mistakes that Jesus calls Simon out on.
And then Jesus reals us in and we are left to his mercy whether or not we will be taken off the hook and either contained or released.
And what I mean is that when we lock on to judgment, it is so easy for us to forget entirely about grace. When our focus is on the depth of the sin instead of the salvation of the sinner, it’s so very easy to forget that we are in need God’s grace just as much, if not more, as the person we perceive to be our lowly neighbor.
A man was perplexed by his wife’s refusal to admit here hearing problem. Speaking with his doctor one day, he exclaimed, “How can I get my wife to admit that she is hard of hearing?”
“I’ll tell you what you need to do,” his doctor replied. “When you arrive home this evening, peak your head through the door and ask, “Honey, what’s for dinner tonight?” If she doesn’t answer, go into the living room and say, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” If she still doesn’t answer, walk into the kitchen and ask, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” If she still does not hear you, then walk up right behind her and speak directly into her ear: “Honey, what’s for dinner?” Then you will be able to convince her of her need for a hearing exam.”
“Great!” the man responded. “I think it will work!” That evening the man arrived home from work. Just as he had been instructed, he opened the front door and called out: “Honey, what’s for dinner tonight?” He listened carefully, but there was no reply. He walked into the living room and repeated, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” He still received no answer. He then walked into the kitchen and asked, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” Still, there was no answer. The man walked right up behind his wife and spoke directly into her ear: “Honey, what’s for dinner?”
At this the wife turned around and resolutely replied: “For the fourth time, I said we are having spaghetti!”
Sometimes it’s so easy to overlook the reality that we’re the ones who need the most help.
It’s what Nathan calls King David out on. It’s what Jesus calls Simon Peter out on. And it’s what the law calls you and I out on as well. How often have we decided that we’re not going to trust somebody simply because they come from a family where substance abuse is present or family members have done jail time?
How often have we made a visual judgment on somebody and then set our expectation bar lower for that person than we might for others who are more like we are? How many times can we honestly say that our senses were heightened because we were around a person of different color or wearing a turban? We’ve all been guilty at some point of passing judgment on our neighbor, and Jesus knows it and that’s why Jesus says to us, “How can you tell your neighbor that he’s got a sliver in his eye, when you’ve got a log jammed in your own.”
And when we realize that we are passing judgment, when that awareness comes over us, it is at that point that we are invited to enter into the conversation of grace. It is at that point that we are empowered to not only refuse to pass that judgment which comes so easily to us, but to take the position of being persons who seek justice. We are not only encouraged, but commissioned, to take the role of the lowliest of the low, and to be persons who serve, to be, as Martin Luther calls us, “Little Christs.”
And here’s the thing. When you are at the very bottom, when you assume the lowliest station that you can assume, it is at that point that you will see in everyone else what is good in them. When you are the lowest of the low, everyone else are worth striving for. It is at that point where we realize that we are not judging the other, but that we are passing judgment on ourselves. And that judgment is guilt. And the punishment for that guilt is certain and eternal death.
And maybe that’s exactly where this woman, a “sinner” as Simon Peter refers to her as, is at. Maybe she’s had a horrible life that has led to a desperate lifestyle in which her mere survival has been all about placing a price on herself and selling herself for that price. We just don’t know who she is for certain, but we do know that the reputation that she enters this room with has no bearing on Jesus whatsoever.
Because Jesus has placed a value on her that is so much more than any one of us could possibly even imagine ourselves being worth. And it all flows out of her being forgiven of all her sins, and her truly trusting and believing that she has been forgiven. And that is about the hardest thing in the world to do.
I am unabashedly pro-life and the reason is on several levels. First of all, if you read the words of the 139th Psalm, among other scripture, the Psalmist reminds us that God knew us before we were born, before we were conceived, so as far as I’m concerned, that makes us persons. So, I believe that biblically abortion is forbidden.
But there’s more to it. Many parents of aborted children have stated that they regret their decision to do so. They have verbalized that they think about their decision every day and wonder about the “what if’s” if they had made the choice not to abort. They struggle to forgive themselves. They ask for God’s forgiveness and receive it, but so often don’t believe it, and the result is that they pass judgment on themselves and assume that the world is passing the same judgment on them as well because the value system of our world simply will not allow for complete forgiveness. The value system of our world tags you forever.
And that’s where we get led. When we get caught up passing judgment on others what we are doing is setting our own value system and we’re determining what we’ve done is sinful or not. But when we turn to Jesus and open ourselves up completely and prostrate before Him as utter and complete sinful human beings seeking his forgiveness, when we receive it, and believe it, we are no longer burdened with trying to abide by the world’s standards and the judgments that accompany those standards, but are free to live in the presence and joy of God’s abiding and eternal grace.
Now, I probably will never hear from any major fishing companies that are willing to sponsor me. That’s okay. That’s not what makes me a fisherman. What makes me a fisherman is that I have a license, a pole, and some bait. Whether I catch anything or not has no bearing on whether I am a fisherman.
The same can be said about my forgiveness from sin. It is complete and it is for all eternity. Through the waters of baptism, the stain of sin has been washed away entirely, and the judgment of this world has no bearing on it whatsoever. Thanks be to God who made us in His image and perfects us for all eternity through nothing more than His desire to do so, seeing us as we were created, without sin. Amen.