“GOD IS IN HIS HOLY HABITATION”
Saint Luke 18. 9-14
11th Sunday after Trinity: 11 August Anno Domini 2013
Fr. Jay Watson SSP
In The + Name of Jesus
Parishioners sitting back stroking their chins while this parable is being preached, judging and analyzing the presentation for homiletical emphases would resemble to a “t” the pompous Pharisee. The Law is not meant to be handled and observed; the Law is meant to cut your faces open, creating raw bleeding flesh; the Law is meant to knock your arthritic knees out from under you and finally get you down on the ground, wounded, impotent and blind! REPENT!
Your “old Adam” your odd and twisted Adam, loves this parable because you turn it into an “us versus them.” You see yourself as the repentant, humble, confessional tax-collector and you see your enemies—those who don’t bend to your will—as the popinjay Pharisee. Your sinful heart likes what it likes and dislikes what it dislikes. The heart of the pagan is a lifeless seemingly impenetrable rock of granite, to be sure; but the heart of a Christian, a sinful Christian (i.e. ALL Christians) is a hard shell like a walnut—a tough nut to crack.
This sermon, any sermon, any preacher, will not crack your old nature and “make” you “feel” anything—certainly not with clever stories, winsome anecdotes, and well constructed word-play; neither with historical minutia, anthropological-ethnological insights or even poetry most beautiful. Only the Holy Ghost taking the text can crack you open so that you will then crack yourself with the beating of hands upon breasts: “my fault, only my fault, my most grievous fault!”
You are the Pharisee. The Pharisee goes up to the Temple to pray and you come to your parish likewise. The Pharisee was not talking to the LORD, he was orating to an audience of merit (himself) and to the peons (everyone else). The Pharisee was the 1st century’s contemporary worship avatar: “it’s all about me and my desires; it’s all about me and my works and accomplishments!”
Professor Justo Gonzalez correctly points out that we act the part of sinful Pharisees when we demonize and caricaturize the Pharisees as only the “black-hat” the dark hearted melodramatic villain. The Pharisee in reality was the best that 1st century Judaism produced. Pharisees were serious, focused, devoted, intelligent and confessional Jews. They labored to make the faith more than rote ritualism; they sought a personal component that fostered accountability not lukewarm accommodation. But all of the merits of a dedicated catechesis and personal rectitude are worthless when the object becomes the subject. The Pharisee was not praising God; he was looking in a mirror admiring his real Lord. He was you! REPENT!
Jesus is the rescuer for all Pharisees which is why He spent so much time speaking with them, eating with them, and interacting with them.
The Pharisee spread his arms wide in self-adulation—finger-tips no-doubt gesturing back to his own fat head. Jesus, the God/Man allowed His own innocent arms to be spread wide—and nailed to the wood of the Cross—finger-tips quivering in searing pain as severed nerves spasm-ed and blood spurted; and His head swelled from the wounds of the crown of thorns. Jesus talked to God your Father on your behalf: “Father, forgive them, forgive the Augsburgers for being Pharisees!”
“I tithe” puffed the Pharisee. “I’m a member of the LC-MS (and a “confessional” parish to boot) and not one of those liberal congregations.” Jesus, the Christ didn’t just give a measly tithe, a 10% for your foul misdeeds, he gave 100% of His Body and Blood.
“I fast twice a week” went the braggadocio. “I give more of my time and talents as well as paying more attention to personal piety…at least if it’s what I learned during the formative years of my confirmation class”—which is of course the MOST relevant three years of the Church’s two millennia. Jesus, God, fasted for your arrogance and petulance 40 days and 40 nights; He fasted from all companionship and even from the Presence of His Father for six hours at Calvary’s bone-yard.
“I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican.” “Thanks be that I am white, conservative, prayerful, Book-of-Concord reading, un-divorced, un-convicted, employed, and not like the parasites, druggies and faggots.” Jesus not only ate with the thieves, whores, lepers, traitors, and half-breeds, He became all of them, all of you, when after taking all of your flesh and blood upon/INTO Him in His Incarnation, He carried all of your sin on His shoulders and was crucified as your Sin offering, your atoning sacrifice of God’s wrathful blood-judgment against YOU!
But there’s more. Only the Lord Christ, The Word and the Holy Ghost make a repentant tax-collector the Brother of Jesus and son of The Father. You don’t make or earn your right to be the Publican in the parable. You, your Pharisee double-dealing and self-justifying heart doesn’t feign or mimic true contrition. Your holiness and sanctification is Christ active in you (as Paul writes in Galatians and as Chemnitz teaches). Soli Deo Gloria!
Even deep within a humble and repentant Publican beats the festering seeds of original sin and the sprouting trespasses of daily sin—including false modesty, empty ritualism, and an inflated sense of pride in doing contrition. Seems like even the “good guy” in the parable—in the parish, can’t win for losing. Only Jesus wins for you by losing +.
Confession of sins left solo and uncompleted by reception of Holy + Absolution becomes works-righteous pride. Breast-beating must quickly be dealt with by heart-massage, mouth-to-mouth and transfusion. Jesus descends in the Flesh and Blood to give the Publican, and you, His Flesh and Blood; His nourishment, love, care, and AFTER CARE in His Word. For Jesus is your Publican. For you Jesus kneels at Gethsemane, kneels in utter contrition over your sins at the Crucifix; Jesus permits His breast to be struck and pierced over all your guilt; and Jesus pleads with the Father in full and total reliance and confidence that God IS merciful to you a sinner.
I tell you the Gospel; I feed you the Good News, this day: you are exalted in, with, and under the Humble One, and Mercy Enfleshed is placed on your tongues.
In The Name of The Father and of + The Son and of The Holy Ghost