St. Luke 18:9–14 – Trinity 11 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
August 23, 2020 – Video Here
INI. Amen. Before I even knew what a publican was, I knew I was one. Can’t be the pharisee. Must be the Tax Collector. I’m a virtue signaling social justice warrior. You are too. It’s all right there for all to see on our Social Media — what lives matter, how conservative we are or how woke, how to make our country great again, how to save the world from the evil Orange Man, how white privileged we are, how not, we wear our masks and care about covid, we defiantly don’t, we’re pro-life and anti-vaccine, we’re pro-choice and science, and we are for JC more than anyone else. Lutherans care — we have the 1990’s bump-stickers to prove it.
And before you cancel me for not meeting your expectations as pastor, remember my second job is to call you out your sins. We are inclined — all of us— to find inside ourselves something that we can take comfort in, trust in, as deserving favor with God. Something that makes us more and balances the scales. And then, we look at others as just simply not — not good enough or not as committed of a Christian as we are. They are deficient but I’ll make up for what they lack. (Sigh) Someone has to…
We may self-identify as Publicans, but we sure act and sound like Pharisees. “My kids behave better. I am more mission minded. I volunteer here while most people just sit in the pew. I’m a charter member. I’m give more. Bless your heart, they’re trying the best they can with what they have.”
But the truth is that both when you are at your very best, kicking your sins in the teeth, on fire for Jesus, and when you are your at lowest and can’t even lift your eyes to the heavens, at both those times you are a pharisee.
And if I’ve offended you in this, it’s because it goes against your nature to confess this truth: “I am the pharisee of the parable.” To beat your breast and ask God for mercy is to confess that you have look down on others for the very sins that you have done. Speck in their eye. Log in yours.
Now that I’ve told you about your utter hypocrisy I get to do primary job you called me twice to do: Jesus came and took on your flesh to live before God as you should live and to suffer the punishment that you deserve. He was crucified for the Pharisee and Publican, for holy person and sinner, even you and me. His life spent to save them, to redeem them, to buy you back from your sins, from your death, and from the power of the devil. To not only end the war between you and God but also to end the skirmishes between you and others, the constant pushing each other down and raising ourselves up over their dead pharisaical corpses.
You are saved, you are forgiven, you are made right before God by Christ and Christ alone. τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται. (Eph 2:8-9)
Grace alone means grace alone, not you working or doing or being. It means Jesus alone, gift alone, mercy alone, by faith alone. It means that you are saved from ever having to worry about whether you are enough for God. Jesus alone is all the “enough” you’ll ever need before God.
All these things you hold up as good can’t save you. Being or not being something doesn’t save. That’s the problem of the Pharisees prayer! Not being a like other men, extortioners, unjust, homosexuals, adulterers, porn addict doesn’t save. And in the same way, being the publican, being honest, nice, straight, a good parent, repentant sinner, or conservative doesn’t save either.
Your sins damn you to a real hell. But the answer to this problem isn’t fixed by not being or being something. Only Jesus saves. His death on the Cross is more than enough for God. Only His forgiveness covers you. He your holy life. He your getting better. He your virtue before others. He your identity, your story, your truth, your only Savior.
For Jesus became your inner Pharisee. He became your virtue signaling. He became your hate, your despising others, your thinking yourself to be just a little more than those around you. In Him, all your sins died. In His resurrection, you are raised to the very right hand of God.
And don’t just throw your hands up and say, “I guess I’ll just not do anything,” Repent of your sins like the publican and believe that God saves you in Jesus. Then, remember that your neighbor needs the good that you do—the good that Jesus does through you—to build them up. The peeps around you need you to tell them that they are going to be okay in Jesus. They need to be loved and lifted up, cared for, and forgiven for the bad they’ve done. The good you do won’t save you, but the people around you sure could use some good from you to lift them up and save them in Jesus!
You live, free, forgiven, by grace. No longer having to justify and hold up those pathetic things you do and don’t do before God as if they matter. No more need to define yourself by your failures and successes. You aren’t a pharisee in Jesus. You aren’t a failed parent, divorced, addict, gay, straight, good church attender, a good spouse, or a great citizen either. Not in Jesus, not any more.
In Jesus, you are forgiven. In Jesus, you are a baptized child of God. In Jesus, you are an heir to the right hand of God. He even makes your works good for others. You see, Jesus defines who you are you just as He saves you. INI. Amen.