Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 18:1-20
Dear recipients of forgiveness: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The world laughs at sin. To them, sin is just a big joke. Everyone does whatever he wants, and any suggestions that God has given us His Commandments to follow with threats of punishment for not following them is laughable to the world.
This is reflected in today’s media. What sin is not laughed at? It is thought to be hilarious when children are defiant to their parents and even curse at them. It’s funny that someone keeps stealing from his neighbour or keeps doing stupid things when he’s drunk. It’s a joke that someone keeps cheating on his wife. Movies and shows often are based entirely on such “humour” to the point that we get immune to even thinking about how disgusting and sinful such actions are. We get immune to the point that when we see such things in our own families, we don’t even think of them as sins. We are in danger of sin becoming as big of a joke to us as it is to the godless world.
Sin has certainly become a joke to some churches already. The “bishop” of the other Lutheran church body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, just declared this past week that God does not condemn sin. She said if there is such a thing as hell, it is empty. Sin is just a big joke to that church body. That is one of many reasons we are not in fellowship with them.
To God, however, sin is no joke. You heard what Jesus tells you to do, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Go confront your brother if he sins and rebuke him. Jesus doesn’t tell you to laugh at your brother’s sin. He doesn’t tell you to ignore your brother’s sin. He doesn’t tell you to go tell your pastor about your brother’s sin or to gossip to anyone else about the sin either. Jesus tells you to go confront him. Rebuke him. Correct him.
Why? Because sin is not a joke. Sin is a breaking of God’s Commandments. Sin is rebellion against our creator. Sin is turning away from God’s good and perfect will to the devil’s evil and wicked will. Sin breaks communion with God and separates the sinner from God. Sin most certainly can damn a sinner to eternity in hell, that place of torment and gnashing of teeth which God’s Word tells us is not empty. That is why Jesus tells you to go confront your brother who sins. Jesus does not want to be separated from communion with your brother. Jesus does not want your brother condemned to hell.
Don’t tell me you’re too timid or shy to correct your brother who sins. If someone tells you that it is good that our Prime Minister pays out $10 million of our tax dollars to a terrorist murderer, you will voice your disagreement. If someone tells you that your favourite television show is a waste of time, you will speak up and defend it. If someone mocks the Roughriders, I hardly think you’d keep quiet. So why keep quiet when your brother sins?
We can only conclude that politics, television shows, and sports are more important to us than God’s Word; that they are more important to us than our brother’s salvation. We’ve bought into the devil’s lies about what is important to stand up for and defend and what is not.
We need to repent. We need to repent because neither our sin nor the sin of our brother is a light matter or a joke. That’s why Jesus says if your brother doesn’t listen to you, take one or two others with you to call your brother to repentance. If he doesn’t listen to you still, tell it to the church. If he refuses even to listen to the church, then he is to be treated as someone outside the church, outside the kingdom of God. He is to be treated as someone on the way to hell.
So many steps. So much hard, stressful, difficult work. That’s how much God loves our brother who sins. God wants to give him every opportunity to repent. That’s how much God loves us. He wants to give us every opportunity to repent.
Repentance has two parts. First, that we are sorry for our sins, fear God’s wrath, and grieve that we have sinned when God’s Word condemns our sin. And second, that in the midst of grieving over sin, we believe and trust that our sin is forgiven freely on account of Christ.
Our sin is forgiven freely because God takes sin so seriously that He gave His only Son to die for sin. Sin is so serious that God punished all sin in Jesus. Sin is so serious that Jesus was mocked, beaten, tortured, and killed because of it. Sin is the reason God the Father forsook His Son and would not listen to His cries, moans, or prayers as He suffered and died.
You have been bought with a price – the holy, precious blood of Christ, and His innocent suffering and death. You have been redeemed – God has bought you back for Himself and rescued you from all the weight of your sins.
Sin is not a light matter or joke, but forgiveness is an even greater matter. Forgiveness of sins brings sinners from darkness to light, from death to life, from hell to heaven. Forgiveness of sins snatches us out of the grasp of the evil foe and into the hand of our heavenly Father, from whose hand no one can snatch us.
It doesn’t matter how many people take sin lightly and laugh it off. Great numbers do not sway the truth, and they don’t sway God. Jesus promises to be present where two or three are gathered in His name.
Where one baptizer baptizes one person, there is Christ among them. Where one penitent is absolved by one who pronounces absolution, there is Christ among them. Where just one shut-in or hospitalized member celebrates the Sacrament of the Altar with one celebrant, there Christ has promised to be.
Baptism, Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar are no light matter either. They are the means by which God gives you the forgiveness of sins.
If I told you that there is a bank account with a million dollars in it, it would do you no good if you cannot access it. The money is sitting there, but if you cannot receive it, it is useless to you. But if I gave you a cheque book, a bank card, and an online banking password, all of a sudden you can benefit from the money in the bank account. You can receive what is there for you to receive.
Just so, there is forgiveness of sins and eternal life which has been bought for you by Jesus’ death. It does no good to you if you cannot access it. If you do not receive it, it is useless to you. Thus, Christ instituted Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. These are the means Christ instituted so that you can have access to His forgiveness and receive it. There’s not even a limit on the account! You can keep receiving forgiveness over and over. You can keep accessing and receiving forgiveness, given and shed for you. God gives it to you in unlimited supply.
Sin is such a serious matter, that God will continue to forgive you so that you will not end up in hell. Sin is so grave a matter, that God will continually forgive your sins all the way to the grave so that you will enter eternal life. Sin is such a big deal, that God gave His only Son to die for sin, so that you can receive unlimited and unending forgiveness over and over, day after day, to eternal life. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.