Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jesus Receives Sinners and Eats with Them

Third Sunday after Trinity, June 16th, Year of Our + Lord 2013
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, MT
Jesus Receives Sinners and Eats With Them - Luke 15:1-10
Vicar Jason Toombs

Jesus receives sinners and eats with them.

This sentence is meant as an insult.  This sentence should be shocking but it doesn’t shock in the way the Pharisees and the scribes meant.  We are used to hearing this, it goes in one ear and out the other.  Every week you hear that Jesus loves sinners.  Let’s put these “sinners” into real perspective: Jesus receives drug dealers. Jesus receives terrorists. Jesus receives sex traffickers.  Imagine seeing our Lord sitting down to eat a meal with the Boston terrorists.  This should be shocking to us.  The truth lies with why He is willing to receive sinners and eat with them; He is wanting them to repent.

He wants you to repent too.  Repent of your sin.  Repent of your failings.  Repent of thinking your works will get you into heaven.  Repent of thinking your upstanding moral life will get you there either.  Jesus receives real sinners.  Jesus receives sinners like you and me.  Jesus didn’t come to die for the morally upright, the moderately decent, the people who meant well but made a few mistakes.  Jesus died for sinners who are the lowest of the low.  He died for all people.  For the Jews, the Muslims, the Mormons.  Jesus died for the Catholics, the Baptists, and other Christians.  Jesus died for the pagans, the Agnostics, and the Atheists.  ...  Jesus died for you.

Jesus’ death on the cross paid for all sins.  His death covers the sins of the the worst, the ugliest and cruelest members of our race.  Jesus receives and eats with sinners without discrimination.  It is shocking to hear this.  Admit it, we all like to believe that people who have wronged us personally will be tormented in hell for all eternity.  We like to think that people who have murdered someone we care about, people who have stolen from us, people who have lied about us will be in hell.  We don’t like to hear that Jesus receives sinners like them.  But that’s exactly what happens.  Jesus receives sinners like them.  ...  Jesus receives sinners like you.

There is nothing in you that deserves this.  It is solely on Jesus that this rests.  You can take no credit for your salvation.  There is no trying to earn your salvation before God, you will either be with Him in heaven solely on His work or suffering in hell for all of your sin covered works.  It is the same for all people, Jesus alone is the way of salvation.  Not Jesus plus works, not Jesus plus another prophet, not Jesus as moral example for us to follow.  Jesus as your crucified and risen Savior is the only way to heaven.

You were like the sheep in Jesus’ parable.  You were lost, you left behind perfection and were born in sin.  And by your own power you would stay there, like a pig in mud, wallowing in it.  But you are not a pig, you are a little lamb.  You are a lost sheep, who your Good Shepherd went after to find.  And when He found you, He lays you on His shoulder.  He rejoices that He found you.  He calls together all of the angels in heaven who rejoice with Him because you are no longer straying but are resting in Him.

You have repented of your past thoughts, words, and deeds.  You have confessed your sins before God the Father in heaven.  You have repented and received His forgiveness.  You have been washed clean of your sins in baptism.  You have received a new garment, the garment of heaven, the invisible garment Christ has handed over to you in baptism. 

The waters of baptism are not a one time washing away of sin only.  Yes, your baptism happened on a particular day, at the hands of somebody, but pastors are merely God’s agent.  God is the one who is behind all of this, God is the one who is the actor.  You, the baptized, are the one who joyfully receives this gift of God.  These waters are now your home as a Christian.  Return to these waters daily through contrition and repentance, where you have sorrow for your sins and repent of them, and be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires.  Only once you are dead can you be raised anew, daily emerging and arising to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

There is joy in this cycle of dying and rising with Christ.  Daily dying to your sinful self and arising new, refreshed, clean in Christ.  It is this new person who can look at others for whom Christ died and help them.  They too need to repent of thinking more highly of themselves, repent and believe.

Would that all people repent and believe.  But that is not the case.  We all have family and friends who have left the church, who have went back on their confirmation vows, who have turned their back to Christ.  These people also need to hear the message of the Gospel.  When we visit with our friends who have left the church, we can call them sinners and “beat them up with the Bible.”  We can point out all their sins and demand that they repent, right there, on the spot.  Make sure they “give their heart to Jesus.”  Is that how you would want your friends to treat you?

Maybe we can be more loving in our proclamation, maybe we can say to our friends, “Jesus loves you, you can continue living in your sin.”  Hmm, something smells a little strange with that phrase: “You can continue living in your sin.”  It proclaims a message of “It’s okay, Jesus forgives you, just believe in Him.  It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you love Him that counts.”  Is this what the Christian message is about?

These false Jesuses are waiting around for the rug to be pulled out from under them.  The real Jesus came to receive sinners and eat with them.  The real Jesus calls people to repent and follow Him.  He alone can give them what they truly need, peace.  His peace, perfect peace.  Not worldly peace, not familial peace, not financial peace.  Eternal peace.  Peace with God.

And this peace is what He gives to you.  His peace is shared in the gathering of His people.  He is your God, you are His people gathered together to hear what He has done for you.  You are here to hear about Jesus’ death and resurrection.  If you don’t want to hear about Jesus’ death and resurrection, why are you here?  It’s not about you, it’s about Jesus for you.  It’s not your works, it’s Jesus’ death in your place.  It’s not about your life, it’s about Jesus resurrection from the dead for you.  But it is about you, you dying with Jesus and being raised to live a new life in Him.  It’s about being received by Jesus, received into His presence and eating with Him.

He richly and daily provides you with all that you need to support this body and life.  He gives to you the daily bread you need which includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body.  May God lead you to realize this and receive His good gifts with thanksgiving, returning thanks to Him. 

He feeds you through the bread which is His Word.  Receive this nourishment for your soul.  Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest His Word given to you.  Meditate upon the Good Shepherd dying to protect His sheep.  Meditate on your Good Shepherd seeking and finding you, bringing you back to Himself.  Receive His Word with joy as it is powerful and active, bringing people to faith in Him.

He also feeds those who have been taught His truths.  You who receive our Lord’s body and blood are not better Christians, you are not better than other people.  You are simply blessed to know your Savior.  You have confessed your faith in Him, the same faith as those with whom you eat.  This meal is His body given for you.  This meal is His blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  His body given into death on the cross; His blood shed for the washing away of your sin.  This is the meal where Jesus eats with sinners who have repented and believe in Him.

He who once came down from heaven to seek His lost sheep and bring them back to the fold is still active today.  He is still seeking His lost sheep.  He is wanting them to repent of their sin and follow Him.  Jesus receives sinners and eats with them.  Jesus receives you and eats with you.  Jesus feeds your soul to life everlasting.  Amen.

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