Sermon - 10/6/19
2019.10.07 22:35:46

Proper 22/C [Pent. 17] (2019): Hab. 1:1-4, 2:1-4; 2 Tim. 1:1-14; Luke 17:1-10.  


Sea,    “[W]oe to the one through whom [temptations to sin] come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea… If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (vv. 2, 6).


Jesus moves from the failed Pharisees and scribes to the new responsibilities of his church in the coming era. He instructs of expectations: evangelizing, preaching, teaching, rebuking, discipling, absolving, and table service. 


Jesus tells two sea stories; first, that if a weak disciple turns from his or her faith by false teaching, then that teacher might expect to descend into chaos’ abyss propelled by an attached millstone. 


If responsibility for delivery of word and sacrament devolves primarily upon the apostolic/pastoral office; still the congregation is not untethered from what they receive from their pastors.


Congregational priority keeps the Sabbath holy, hearing God’s word, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, for perfect forgiveness in repentant faith; and that disciples forgive as they have been forgiven, (perfectly, “seven times in a day” v. 4);


And to continue their on-going catechesis for strengthening in the church’s faith delivered in Baptism; and for their own faith in Christ present in word and Sacrament.  In these ways pastors and congregations possess a “holy calling”, a priesthood (2 Tim. 1:9) of sacrificial thanksgiving. 


The Apostles were the first to discern the magnitude of their responsibilities soon to be thrust upon the church. “Righteousness of life by faith”, announced to Abraham (Gen. 15:6) and reiterated by Habakkuk (2:4b) must be comprehended in the context of pastors and congregations caring for each other in faithful extension of “the good deposit” of the faith with which we are “entrusted” (2 Tim. 1:14). 


The Apostles had recently witnessed Jesus’ litany of churchly “woes” and condemnation; the last being, the case of the Rich Man, so called “Dives”, an allegorical prince of the Church establishment (Lk. 16:19-31). On his death, “Dives” was consigned to hell pleading before heaven’s gate for relief from risen Lazarus whom he despised in this life at his own gate. 


Jesus was forming his Apostles for aptness and error free teaching and preaching the gospel (1 Tim 3:2) oriented in God’s forgiveness through his Suffering Servant, the key to true Torah understanding.  The law remains forever, but is only understood in revelation of God’s character for inexhaustible mercy, compassion, and forgiveness for his Son’s sake. 


The Apostles discerned they did not possess “the right stuff” of heaven’s key; so, the specter of failure in their new calling frightened. The cross was beginning to register; so in unison they plead with Jesus, “Increase our faith!” (Lk. 17:5).


Jesus responded with yet another sea story.  Faith as small as a mustard grain easily accesses God’s power concealed under Christ’s crucified weakness.  If God should will us to make the ocean a mulberry orchard, then by the power of his preached his word, it would be so.  


Faith is God’s great recreative miracle for release of the world’s sin, man’s damning unbelief. As it was, the Apostles already possessed faith for their ministry in association with congregations in a cursed world (Gen. 3:17b, 18).


The Apostles were not to fear being the church’s foundation with Christ. Abraham’s saving faith, spoken of by Habakkuk (2:4), is not of ourselves; rather it is the power of Christ’s own faith in whom we articulate as baptismal living stones, the gift of God by the HS, and deployed in due time; but first must come Jesus’ cross, the tree planted in the world’s chaos and his perfecting resurrection for apostolic faith.   


St. Paul addressed a similar lack of pastoral confidence, when he encouraged Timothy, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:6b, 7) so also; the Apostles afflicted with their own loss of confidence on hearing Jesus’ imperative, “you must forgive” (Luke 17:4). 


The Jewish scribes were correct; God alone forgives sin (Mark 2:7). And now in the NT men in the office of Christ, and the Baptized in their priesthood would enter that “holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9) for bestowing God’s lavish forgiveness to repentant hearts. 


The church’s charge and responsibility as purveyors of God’s power to salvation was almost unthinkable. Rebuking and releasing sinners is a godly exercise of authority not possessed by “Moses and the prophets”.


The Apostles, themselves sinners, were over-awed at the impossibility of being “judges” to dispense the abundance of God’s forgiveness and release. Parenthetically, we observe that before the church’s sacramental administration of the Holy Absolution, a pastor asks the penitent only one question, “Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?” (Preface to the Holy Absolution, LSB p. 293).  


St. Paul as Timothy’s spiritual father, encouraged the young Overseer, reminding him of the church’s faith learned at the knees of his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice (v. 5) themselves overseers of his faith to salvation.


Being a pastor is tough, which is why young, inexperienced presbyter-pastors (meaning “elders”) are disadvantaged in congregations struggling (Lk. 13:24), as they are being called out of the world. Given time, grace, patience, and mutual forgiveness, pastors and congregations most often come to relate in love and respect; but apart from Christ, it is otherwise.


The Kingdom come in Christ present brings a sea change in our relation with God, and so also toward brothers and sisters. The Church exists by God’s word living in the sympathetic rhythm of repentance and forgiveness wrought by faith.  


Hear then how Jesus calms his “servants” at the ease of planting “mulberry trees” in the sea.  We need only be faithful in attending to his word and Sabbath worship for on-going faith according to the church’s one confession. 


We plow, supporting law/gospel preaching to repentance and promised forgiveness; we are shepherded in attending his teaching against apostatizing influences of the world that may cause to “stumble” from faith; and we faithfully attend his Table for nourishment in the Substance of our cruciform and resurrection new Life.   


Being a pastor is tough, as is our priesthood called to sacrificial lives in union with one another. Jesus has made us in his “likeness”, God’s Suffering Servant, in whom we have forgiveness and recreation to holiness.  We are “unworthy servants”; still, faith as small as a mustard seed is sufficient when pastors keep our ears clapped onto God’s word of promise. 


Consider our rewards from so small a faith; God deigns to share through us his greatest of all miracles, the restoration of this fallen world being made new by the power Absolution, love and fidelity’s self-control. Amen.






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