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Sermon - 9/1/19
2019.09.01 22:49:51

Proper 17/C [Pent. 12] (2019): Proverbs 25:2-10; Heb. 13:1-17; Luke 14:1-14.  

 

Humbles, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 11).

 

We have two meals before us: explicitly a pharisaic Sabbath Seder; and implicitly, by a parable of heaven’s wedding feast, that Jesus would establish part and parcel of his Last Supper and self-donation on the cross a feast to which we are invited, now as foretaste in hearing his word and receiving our feeding at his church’s Altar.

 

Jesus was invited to a Seder, probably the “honored” guest and Torah speaker for the next morning. He was confronted by a diseased man legally unfit to participate in the communal meal. Jesus took hold of the man, healed him, leaving attendees speechless. No doubt the cleansed man was immediately escorted outside the house gate.

 

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, where after instituting his own Supper, he too was escorted outside the city gate. On the cross Jesus’ baptism concluded in the HS’s fire, a once for all atonement for sin; a new covenant and new altar to which all men, especially those most alienated under the law, are now invited in repentant faith to heaven’s eternal banquet.

 

On healing the diseased man on a Sabbath, Jesus received stupefied silence from the religious arbiters of God’s law. Looking about, he observed their self-conceit as they jockeyed for honorific seats at the Seder table.

 

Jesus began to teach, as expected of the guest of “honor”. He employed a proverb from the court of Solomon along with a kingdom parable; that one should not stand in a place reserved for one greater, lest the host remove and humiliate upon arrival of another, more noble.

 

In itself the proverb is at least a common sense truism for avoiding humiliation before the king in his court (Prov. 25:6, 7). But in light of Jesus’ elevation on the cross and our NT worship, we hear this proverb anew; discerning gospel substance and a table etiquette of humility (Lk. 14:10, 11), a new basis for Christian fellowship. Baptized into Christ, the greatest among us is the One marked least for service to his brothers and sisters (Lk. 22:27).

 

Between our Gospel Reading and my Sermon, the church confessed her Triune God’s identity. At crux of the Nicene Creed you observed my liturgical action on your behalf; at the word’s, “and was made man” your Celebrant bowed deeply before the Altar emphasizing our witness of Jesus’ humanity. Jesus, by taking the flesh of humanity into himself, there was no condescension or humiliation. In the beginning, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 2:31);

 

Rather, Jesus condescended to obedience of the Father, appropriating the sin of the world into his own “good” flesh. Jesus, was sent from heaven, “that we might have this mind amongst [our]selves… who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of servant… And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

 

Thus, Jesus directs to our communal humility as the mark of Christian service, “A new command I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you love one another” (Jn. 13:34).

 

Baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection anoints us into a priesthood of a new Altar in a new Temple outside Jerusalem’s gate. Here, now, in the Christian mass is the place of his new Temple for grace and sanctification and making us fit for love’s calling.

 

Baptized into Christ, our High Priest, with him we offer, not an atonement or propitiation, that has already been offered by Christ alone and received by God once for all and all time. Rather our sacrificial service to God is entirely Eucharistic, a sacrifice of thanksgiving for the exchange of his righteousness and holiness for our sin.

 

In Baptism we possess the HS for hearing aright God’s word and partaking of heavenly food in faith from his NT Altar, the risen body and blood of Jesus. Our sacrifice of thanksgiving and our priestly feeding sustains us for growth in faith by which we are saved and marked in the same humility of our crucified Lord. Faithful in the congregation’s worship, we discern new relations; gathered in his body we are blood brothers and sisters, knowing God’s love as we are daily conformed to the “likeness” of Jesus. Thus, the teacher of Hebrews exhorts, we “look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith” (12:2).

 

So, we do not forget hospitality and catechesis to Christians for those seeking the fullness of fellowship with angels and archangels;

 

We remember those in prison. This admonition does not urge us to what is modernly called “prison ministry” among inmates of San Quintin, Sing-Sing, or county jails. Rather we are reminded that Christianity, its teaching, confession, and worship was and is at various times and places a criminal offense. Thus, Saul persecuted the church possessing from the Jewish Sanhedrin writs of arrest; and looking to Peter and Paul in Rome, secular and pagan authorities imprisoned and executed Christians.

 

In our own environment perhaps, such persecution is observed toward faithful pastors unjustly deposed by congregations infected by a bitter spirit (12:15). As for persecutions in other parts of the world, imprisonment of Christians is a literal reality.

 

In humility we keep and hold marriage in honor, a holy estate within the congregation. While marriage is not a “sacrament”, it is nevertheless the venue of procreation with God and forgiveness acted out in mutual and humble forgiveness between a man and a woman for continued fidelity.

 

A humble spirit frees us from love of money and excessive worry about it. Here we “look to Jesus” who on earth had no place to rest his head, and the “great cloud witnesses” who, in faith trusted God for all things, for the promise of a better inheritance.

 

The teacher of Hebrews fleshes out Christ’s humility; in all things by faith we have the assurance of a “good conscience” that Christ alone has gained for us God’s grace by his atoning work on the cross.

 

Guidance from the teacher to the Hebrews may be law; still, for the Baptized it is a law that presupposes God’s gospel forgiveness, and so revealing where and how saving faith brings our intended end, a recreation as image of God and likeness of Christ. Amen.

 

pem.




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