Trinity 4 (Lk 6, 36–42)

Photo by Johnny Martínez on Unsplash

Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

᛭ INI ᛭

**We attribute these two parts to repentance: contrition (being sorry for your sins) and faith.” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XIIA (V), 28)* Now, “if anyone wants to add a third part to repentance, namely, fruit worthy of repentance, that is, a change of the entire life and character for the better, we will not disagree.” (Apology, XIIa (V), 28)

Jesus says right after our Gospel lesson: “For no good tree bears [rotten] fruit, nor again does a [rotten] tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Now, contrition and faith (both worked by the Spirit) make a tree good. Jesus also says that Good Fruit is what the mouth speaks. So, a good tree, a good man, has good words, and a rotten tree, an evil man, has evil words. But what’s the measurement of good trees and good words? Jesus lays it all out for us today.

((3. Your heavenly Father’s measurement is mercy towards you.))

So, what makes a tree good or bad? Well, it’s God who created trees in the first place, and He made them good (day 3 of the universe), and so He’s the one who makes men good as well.

How does He measure whether a tree is good or evil? How does He measure you? Is it based on what you do, on the fruit? No, fruit is only a sign that tells us if the tree is good or rotten. So it is with people, too—good fruit, good works, good words are the sign of a person who has actual living faith in Jesus.

Now, God says that all men in themselves are evil. You are. I am. In ourselves. Apart from God who makes good there is no good. “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”(Romans 3:10–12)

God is the righteous Judge, and He judges us according to His standards of goodness. (He doesn’t fit within our standards of goodness or fairness or equality or what’s pride-worthy.) He “has consigned all to disobedience.” (Rom 11:32a) According to His Law we are not righteous—we are sinners.

We barely measure up to our own standards. We sometimes measure up to the standards and expectations of other people. We don’t measure up to God’s standard: complete, spotless holiness. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

But in your place the Son fulfilled the Law. Where we don’t measure up to God’s standards, Jesus did, and at Calvary He suffered the punishment that we deserve. There’s now a different measurement. Your heavenly Father’s measurement is mercy towards you for the sake His Son, Jesus. “God has consigned all to disobedience that He might have mercy on all.” (Rom 11:32)

And it is His mercy, “His kindness that leads you to repentance,” not only sorrow for your sins (how you’ve failed God and the people in your life according to His standards) but also faith in Jesus’ free and full forgiveness. Such mercy, such faith grafts us into Jesus, makes us new, makes us “good trees.”

((2. Your heavenly Father’s measurement is mercy through you.))

The Father’s measurement is mercy toward you, because of Jesus, but the Father’s mercy isn’t just toward you, FOR YOU. Your heavenly Father’s measurement is mercy through you to others. (Now, that’s good fruit.)

That’s what Jesus says in our reading today: “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.” Merciful in the Jesus way, the way of forgiveness. Forgiveness not judgment removes your sins. Forgiveness not judgment removes your neighbor’s sins, too. That’s the measurement, the “removing of specks”, the “removing of logs” that Jesus is talking about.

God’s Law doesn’t remove “specks,” “logs,” sins, but it does diagnose them, points them out—like a mirror. Jesus won the forgiveness of sins, and Jesus delivers that forgiveness in the words of absolution, in the preaching of the Gospel, in Holy Baptism, and in the Sacrament of the Altar. But He also delivers it through the forgiveness you speak to others. “Good words”; “Good fruit.”

Forgiveness of sins creates, preserves, and strengthens faith toward God. Forgiveness of sins also enlivens, enkindles, and strengthens love toward one another. Jesus is certainly talking about how your Father is merciful toward you—His measurement in Jesus. But Jesus is very much talking about how that measurement is “pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing.” Over flowing from you, from your heart into the ears and hearts of those around you.

Your sins are logs. Your neighbor’s are specks. That’s how Jesus would have you confess your sins. Yours are the bigger problem, but if you’d rather keep track of your neighbor’s specks, how they’ve wronged you, and if you’d rather judge their sins as bigger than yours (the opposite of what Jesus says), well, Jesus renders this judgment: “Hypocrite.” “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” “The evil person produces evil.”

Your Father’s never-ending mercy overflows to you through His Word, through His Gifts, His Sacraments—all the means of grace! So also your Father’s never-ending mercy in Jesus overflows through you to others. He makes you one of His Means of Grace! How else will your neighbor hear of Jesus’ forgiveness if not through you? It’s why you were baptized, grafted into Jesus.

((1. Your heavenly Father’s mercy overflows at His Son’s Supper.))

Your heavenly Father’s measurement is mercy toward you, FOR YOU. Your heavenly Father’s measurement is mercy toward others, FOR THEM through you. And this gets us to how important the Sacrament is. Here your heavenly Father’s measurement of mercy overflows at His Son’s Supper.

The Sacrament of the Altar, just like all the Sacraments, was instituted to be a mark of profession among men, that is, a sign that we believe and teach the same things around this altar, but the Sacraments are more than that. They also awaken and confirm faith in those who use them. (Augsburg Confession, XIII, 1–2) That faith bears fruit.

So, the Supper is for the forgiveness of sins FOR YOU—for each of you individually and also for all of you together. And so your sins are forgiven. All of them. Not just at Calvary. But your sins are forgiven—all of them—each time you receive the Sacrament in faith. “Good measure, shaken down, pressed together, overflowing”—more forgiveness than you have sins. All sins are forgiven—each time, every time.

Not just yours individually, yours all together. We together. True communion through Jesus’ body and blood in the forgiveness of sins. And so we “wish to go to the Sacrament that [we] may learn to believe that Christ, out of great love, died for [our] sin, and also learn from Him to love God and [our] neighbor.”

How can there be any bad blood between any of us when we’ve all received together Jesus’ body and blood? If there is, “do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Rom 2:4) It is to deny Calvary for them, losing Calvary for you in the process. As Jesus warns, “If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Mt 6:14–15)

This is also important for our daily Christian life, too. Jesus shed His blood for all people, and so we want all people to be here with us, believing along with us, all that Jesus has done for us, and receiving all that Jesus has done for us in the Supper of His body and blood for the forgiveness of all our sins.

((Conclusion.))

YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER’S MEASUREMENT IS MERCY.

That’s His measurement towards you. Jesus died for all your logs, your sins.

YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER’S MEASUREMENT IS MERCY.

That’s His measurement towards those around you. Jesus died for all their specks, their sins. How small they are compared to yours! Mercy for them, delivered to them through your lips: “I forgive you in Jesus name.”

YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER’S MEASUREMENT IS MERCY.

And that mercy overflows for you today. The Supper—how important it is! Overflowing mercy for you—each of you, all of you together. No bad blood between any of us. How can there be? Jesus’ trues body and and true blood unites us.

YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER’S MEASUREMENT IS MERCY.

Just like Jesus said today! And at Calvary. “It is finished.” And at [Immanuel/Bethlehem], too! “My body and blood for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”

᛭ INI ᛭

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