Redeemer Lutheran Church Blog

Sunday, October 2, 2016 - St. Luke 17:1-10

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Posted: Tuesday, October 4th, 2016 by Pastor Westgate

What does Jesus expect of us? We all wonder that. We sense we better do what The Boss wants. What is it? Many people have made lots of money out of finding an answer. How-to books, books about how to run a congregation, and much more have been written about this. What does Jesus expect of us?

He expects that we will be slaves – not servants, slaves. A slave does exactly what he’s supposed to. He doesn’t have a choice. He does what he’s told. He belongs to his boss. He exists to do what the boss wants him to do, and he’s fully set on doing it. If you have something, you have it to do something for you and nothing else, and it does it. A slave works the same way.

But that thought is foreign to us. We don’t like it. After all, we’re Americans, and we love freedom. We don’t want to serve others, let alone be their slaves. We want to do just what we want to do and nothing else, and like all sinners, we want to please our sinful flesh. We want to be our own boss, make our own rules, and dance to the beat of a different drum. And if in reality you are your own boss, and in your home, that’s true to a point.

But in the end you are not your own boss. You are a free person, but you are not free. You belong to God. It may sound crass, but He owns you. God owns you. That makes you His slave. Why? “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Not apart from Him, not alongside Him, but in Him. If it weren’t for Him, we wouldn’t be here. He made us. He keeps us alive. He decides when we die. So He gets to tell us how to live and how not to live, and He gets to judge us at the end.

But there’s more. Yes, there must be more. For “Sinner” is your middle name. And that’s not a name God likes. He stays away from people with that name. They don’t serve Him. They can’t serve Him. Sin serves the self. Sin serves everything that opposes God and hates God. Sin serves Satan. Actually, sin is Satan’s slave. It enslaves us to him, a most wicked, a most evil, a most destructive master, pharaoh of pharaohs, the exact opposite of God. You were born with this master, chained to all his craft and pomp and wiles.

So how can you escape him? Only through Christ. He has crushed the power of that wicked master over the world with His Cross and Passion. He has dissolved your chains to him with the water of Holy Baptism. He has declared you belong to Him, The King of the universe, instead. That makes you not just a dear Child of our heavenly Father, but also His slave.

How does that work? How can you serve Him? You still sin. Each of us is capable of causing somebody else to fall into sin by setting a bad example, at home, at work, in school, on vacation. Perhaps it’s how we treat others or how we treat God’s Word. Perhaps it’s acting in a way that makes it look like we aren’t Christians at all. Perhaps it’s refusing to forgive those who have sinned against us even when they’re sorry, or deciding somebody has sinned against us when actually they haven’t and holding a grudge afterwards.

So how can you serve Him? Repent. Confess your sins. Be truly sorry for them. Beg Him to forgive you and help you live according to His will. And He responds, “Have faith!” Believe! Believe what? Believe that He has uprooted not just any tree, but all the sins of the world with the wood of The Cross. Believe that The Blood shed on The Cross not only forgives all your sins, but also gives you the strength to live according to His will. Then go forth in this faith and live, desiring to please Him Who died for you out of thanks for what He has done. That’s why you should admit, when you have done your duty, that you are a useless or unworthy slave who only did his or her duty. You don’t deserve to have Him give you anything. The sinner deserves nothing from God. Everything he gets from Him is a gift, undeserved, only out of His great love for us. All your works only pale in comparison with what He has done for you. We can’t even begin to thank Him for it in this life!

So repent and believe His Word, and act according to it. The only way you can do that is with the help He provides, and He provides His help here at His Service. Now that’s odd. We’re supposed to be His slaves, serving Him, yet we Lutherans call worship “God’s Service,” in German, Gottesdienst. It does not mean we’re serving Him. It means He’s serving us, serving us with His Law and Gospel, with His Word and Sacrament. For it is through His Means of Grace that He strengthens our faith in Him and our fervent love toward one another.

How does The Sacrament do that? It is His Body, It is His Blood, which were sacrificed for you upon The Cross. That’s the manifestation of the greatest love that has ever existed and that still exists. That love is given you at The Altar. You come here to get The Sacrifice. You come here to get God to give it to you. You come here to eat and He now dwells in you and you in Him. You come here to drink and now His Blood flows through you. Now you are led to be like Him Who healed all who came to Him. Now His Spirit rules your hearts and minds that you may be enabled to constantly serve Him.

So your works do not salvation gain. They instead prove that you are already saved. They are a confession before men and God that you believe in Him Who has freed you from sin, freed you not just so that you be forgiven, but freed you so that you live the exact opposite of how the wicked one wants you to live. You have vowed to serve Him willingly and freely and lovingly. God grant that you always keep your vow.

The holy angels keep their vows. The Church for about 1500 years has given God thanks for the holy angels, specifically on September 29, and in the days around it. Therefore we remember the feast in our prayers this morning. It was one of Dr. Schnaible’s favorite feasts. The holy angels also serve God. As The Catechism says, God’s will is always done in heaven, and it is they who do it. But it is His will that they also help and defend us on earth. Though we cannot see them and do not even know what they have done for us, yet we pray that they would have charge over us so that the wicked foe may have no power over us. Holy Church wants us to remember this, so she appoints this time each year for the observance to specifically remind us of these things.

But that is not all they do. They also sing God’s praises. They join you and all the faithful, here and all the hosts of heaven, in singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.” For here, where Jesus Christ is truly present sitting upon The Altar, here heaven and earth are united. Here God and man are reconciled. Here the holy angels downward bend their wondering eyes at mysteries so bright – that’s why I bow during that opening part of the Sanctus. Here The Cross of Christ comes to you. Here His Body joins itself to you. Here His Blood pours over you and into you. He comes often because you need Him to do that so you can live as His slave. And thus you serve Him all your days.

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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