The Triune God has sent out the Word of the Apostles and Prophets to you. His Word calls you to come to Him, to hear what He says to you and believe. He says you deserve to have Him condemn you, but He has chosen to save you. He has chosen to end the war Adam’s sin started between God and man. He became one of us and suffered for us, and we are reconciled. But one thing is true: We are still sinners. We are a “Congregation of Sinners.”
But that’s not what our church name says! We’re “The English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer of Oakmont and Verona.” We’re English not because of our bloodline but because we were speaking English when other Lutherans here were speaking German or Slovak. We’re Evangelical because we believe The Gospel. We’re Lutheran because we believe “God’s Word and Luther’s doctrine pure shall unto eternity endure!” We’re a church because we are sheep gathered around our Good Shepherd, Our Redeemer, because He purchased us from sin, death, and the devil not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious Blood and with His innocent suffering and death. Oakmont and Verona are in the name to say where we’re located, even though we started out in Penn Hills, near the Old German Cemetery near the school.
The title “Our Redeemer” tells us we’re sinners. It reminds us we can never earn our way to heaven. We need somebody else to get us there, and not just anybody, but God-made-man, our elder Brother. We are sinners; our sinful stain still affects us. Our sins are washed away, but we still live with sin; we’re still affected by it. We are by nature sinful and unclean and we’ll be sinners who do sinful things until the moment we die and stand before The Savior Judge of all.
Therefore judge not nor condemn, but forgive and give to others. Jesus does not say we shouldn’t call a sin a sin. No, “These are the holy ten commands.” If we don’t call what God’s Word says is a sin a sin, who will? If we don’t call sin by its proper name, sin and enmity against God, how will anyone repent?
That’s what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel. It’s not about making people feel bad. It’s not about getting even or being a “meanie.” It’s about the forgiveness of sins. The Law is preached to condemn you for your sins, but that’s not the end goal. The Law must be followed in faithful Christian preaching by The Gospel. Christ has died for all sins, from the simplest, not-so-bad sin you can think of all the way up to whatever you think is the absolutely worst sin ever.
So we don’t point out sin just to say you deserve to die eternally. We don’t want anyone to die eternally. We want, God wants, all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. It’s ungodly to desire somebody to perish. It’s ungodly to curse someone and hold a grudge against anyone for anything they have done, even if it legitimately offended you. God calls us to forgive all people because He has forgiven us. He calls us to give them mercy, just as He has had mercy on us. We don’t deserve His salvation. He gives it to us. So we are to reflect that mercy to everyone we meet. He calls us to show others in word and deed what He has done for us and demonstrate it.
But we don’t like to do that, do we? We like our stuff and we don’t want to use it to help people not named “me, myself, and I.” When someone offends us, it’s far easier and more gratifying to dream about getting even … a lot … than to forgive them. It’s far easier to mock public sinners than to pray for their repentance. That’s not just how the ungodly act. It’s the way we act. We have yet to learn to forgive and repent at all times rather than to hold a grudge and hold onto sin.
Why is this? Because there aren’t just specks in our eyes. No, there are beams, large beams, blinding beams, beams that make us incapable of seeing the way of salvation, the way of justice the way of righteousness. We are by nature unable to do what is right or even know 100% what’s right or wrong. We could figure some of it out, yet never be able to know and do it all. The worst part about those beams? We don’t even know they’re there if God doesn’t tell us about them.
So He pulls those beams out of our eyes. He cleans out the specks too. Then you can see just how truly wicked and corrupt you are. Then say, “I am a sinner. I am truly sorry for my sins.” Then look up to see the crucifix come into view. See the beams from your own eyes divinely crossed and fixed to each other, and God-Made-Flesh hanging upon them, bearing your sins, being punished for them.
Christ has taken the beams out of your eyes. He has taken your sin away from you. He has freed you from it. He has forgiven you. He has done this because He was punished for them all while He hung upon The Cross. God no longer declares you guilty of them. Christ was already judged guilty by death. He rose from the dead declared not guilty. Since He is not guilty, it follows that you must be found innocent of sin. Eternal life is yours. The congregation of sinners is the congregation of saints, those made holy by The Blood of The Lamb.
But since you are forgiven your sin, it also follows that you should live like it. You are saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone. You are baptized into Christ and you are cleansed of all your sin. Therefore you are no longer to serve sin. You are to serve The Lord joyfully in all godly quietness. But what does that mean? The Latin original of the Collect actually says this: “tranquil devotion.” Let’s joyfully serve Him in tranquil devotion. These words were composed in the 5th century, a time when the Western Church found itself at war with pagan forces. When we fight, we get uppity and afraid. So God calls on us instead to serve Him without anxiety, to quietly maintain godly reality and habits, to quietly cultivate the Christian character and perform all Christian duties (The Sermon and the Propers, III, p, 67).
How can we do this? Keep The Ten Commandments. Luther wrote the hymn we sang to begin the service to help teach us what God desires – both what He wants us to do and what He doesn’t want us to do. He wrote it because we remember what is sung and rhymed far better than what is spoken. What did we sing? Adore no other gods, but fully trust Him and love Him with all our heart. Don’t disgrace His Name or lower the status of His Word but only praise as good and true what God praises as good and true. Come to worship so God will work in us through His Word and Sacrament. Honor and obey our parents and serve them in whatever way they need. Don’t murder, hurt, hate, or be filled with anger, but be kind and patient, help and defend even our foe as if he were our friend. Be faithful to our marriage vows and not even allow a single lust or impure thought and keep our conduct free of sin through disciplined self-control. Don’t steal or take away what others worked for but open wide a generous hand to help the poor. Never tell lies about people or hurt their reputation but view them in the kindest way and speak the truth. Don’t crave anything that belongs to anyone else but pray God to bless our neighbor just like we want Him to bless us.
But who can do all this perfectly? So forgive our sins, O Lord. Help us and deliver us from sin. Forgive us and show us how to live according to your will. For . . . (TLH 287:11-12 follow)
God these commandments gave therein To show thee, child of man, thy sin And make thee also well perceive How man unto God should live.
Help us, Lord Jesus Christ, for we A Mediator have in Thee. Our works cannot salvation gain; They merit but endless pain. Have mercy, Lord!