Trinity 17 (Lk 14, 1–11; Eph 4, 1–6)

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

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

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

᛭ INI ᛭

((5. Oops!: We deserve nothing from the Lord, except wrath.))

“Entitlement.” “Your fair share.” “Get paid what you’re owed.” “What’s your worth?” “Get what you deserve.”

What do you deserve? In your daily life you get what you deserve, and it’s all based on what you do. Doing good work deserves praise. Doing bad work deserves punishment.

What about with God? What do you deserve from Him? What does He owe you? What have you earned from Him?

The Bible tells us the answer to these questions, and we’ll probably say something pretty similar, too. (It’s even clear to natural law, which means, it’s clear to our natural human way of thinking.)

Nothing. God doesn’t owe us anything. He’s God; we’re not. What do we deserve from Him? Well, nothing good actually. We’re sinners, and that means we sin. Sinners do sins; sins don’t make sinners. Dogs bark; barking doesn’t make a dog.

“The Christian Questions” put divine “entitlement,” what you’re owed before God, this way: “What have you deserved from God because of your sins?” “His wrath and displeasure, physical death, and eternal damnation.”

((4. Ugh!: Our confession of unworthiness is empty.))

Now, we’ll say that. In fact, we did earlier. The liturgy forces us to, like parents enforcing apologies on their children. We said to God, “We justly deserve your present and eternal punishment.” True words! And you believe them! Well, sometimes…

The proof of that is the Pharisees that Jesus sees in Luke 14. “They chose the place of honor.” Why? They thought they deserved it! Earned it. Were worthy of it. Why’d they think that? Well, they thought they were better than everyone else! They thought they were more holy, more righteous, did more God-pleasing stuff, were better behaved than all the rest.

They thought they’d earned God’s blessings, and they knew that by comparing themselves with others. It’s why they picked better seats than the other guests. Jesus pictures this mindset in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, when the Pharisee prays: “Lord, I thank you that I am not like other people.”

Sadly, we’re no different. (We really aren’t.) It’s who we are as sinners. And while some sins might be different between you and someone else, this one is pretty universal. We’re all fine and good to confess that we’re unworthy, to be our chest and say, “Mea culpa! God be merciful to me a sinner.” Until someone else walks in…

You know who they are… With them in the picture suddenly your sins don’t look so bad anymore. Suddenly, you know you’re getting a better seat at the banquet because they’re here. They don’t even have to be here. It doesn’t even have to be at church. There are people in your life, people you interact with on a daily basis, or at lest pretty regularly, and they become your benchmark.

I could just say their name, and all our humility flies out the window. One name to show that our confession of unworthiness is empty, that we don’t really mean it. Because if we meant it we wouldn’t treat them or their name like we do—not to their face, of course. You know, when they’re not around. There are people we know we’re better than… “Protect us from this Heavenly Father!”

And Jesus’ statement doesn’t help us, at all. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” It doesn’t help because humbling yourself to gain something, isn’t really humbling yourself. That’s not true, God-pleasing humility. Besides saying, “I know I’m not perfect, but they…” Well, that’s just more jockeying for a better seat, avoiding the true confession: “I’m worthy of nothing good in this life, and I’m worthy of hell in the life to come.”

((3. Christ was truly humble in our place.))

We need a substitute. It’s the only solution that’ll actually work. Humility for self-gain isn’t humility. We need to be saved from two equally damning mindsets: either despair (“I’ll never be humble enough for God”) or pride (“I am humble enough for God”). But the truth is: “The Lord opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Proud of heart opposed. Humble of heart favored.

Christ is your humility substitute. Christ was truly humble in our place. Truly exalted, too. That’s all laid out in Philippians 2:

“Though he was in the form of God, [Christ] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus didn’t this for His own sake. He didn’t humble Himself for Him. He was humble for us, for our sake, in our place, to save us. “For our sake God made [Jesus] to be a curse for us.” “For your sake [Jesus] became poor, that you would be saved by His poverty,” His emptiness, His humility. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

((2. Christ gifts His humility to us.))

Jesus is “humble,” “gentle,” “lowly in heart,” He is “patient and kind,” He is “love,” He is “peace.” He is those things for us. His being least, last, lost saves you and me who say we’re ok with being those things until, well, we’re actually confronted with being those things! His humility saves us.

Humility, true God-pleasing humility, isn’t something we work up in ourselves. Human humility we can find, human service we can find, human self-giving we can find, but it is only a shadow, a broken imitation. The Spirit brings out Christ’s humility in our lives.

That’s what Paul’s talking about. “Walk worthily of the calling to which we have been called.” That’s not just being good well-behaved Christians. It’s actually more specific than that. We “walk worthily” when we walk, when we live “with all humility and meekness, with patience, bearing one another in love, striving to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

“Humility,” “meekness,” “patience,” “love,” “peace,” are the fruits of the Spirit. These things also all describe Jesus. He makes them yours through Spirit. And the Spirit does it by means of Holy Baptism. There you were called, there “one Spirit,” “one hope of our calling;” there “one Lord,” “one faith;” there “one God and Father.”

What’s the simplest way to explain all that? 5th Petition: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” “What does this mean?” “We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.”

((1. JESUS UNITES US IN HIS HUMILITY.))

Jesus is our humility substitute, He gifts us His humility, and that’s what unites us. JESUS UNITES US IN HIS HUMILITY. We are all died for. We are all redeemed. We are all baptized. We are all called children of God. No me before you, you before me with our Heavenly Father. We are united together in Jesus our brother.

Any talk or action that raises us up a peg by putting a fellow Christian down a peg, well, is doing that to someone for whom Jesus shed His blood. They are the fellow baptized. We all are united in the Name of the Triune God.

And this is also a blessing of Communion. Yes, it’s for you personally for the forgiveness of sins. Yes, it’s a sign of our agreement on Scripture. But, as Paul also says, “For we, who are many, are one bread, one body, for we all share from the one bread.”

Communion is about us together. One body together. One body in the body of Jesus. There His humility given to us anew, His forgiveness, His death for us. JESUS UNITES US IN HIS HUMILITY. Body and blood together.

᛭ INI ᛭

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