In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Our culture tells itself it is becoming more and more enlightened. But have you noticed we are not any more enlightened than we were a few decades ago? Our new found cultural acceptance of homosexuality is not evidence that we are more enlightened. We have simply shifted whom it is acceptable to hate, ie., smokers, child pornographers, and those biggots who think homosexuality is wrong. We are not more loving. We are not more enlightened. We are still pointing fingers. We still measure out righteousness and judge, judge, judge. We have just shifted the scale of what we say is right and wrong. We are actors. Pretenders who call ourselves spiritual and loving. Hypocrites. Repent.
The logs are firmly in our eyes while we point out the specks in everyone else’s. The blind lead the blind. Even we who are Christians are blind fools, sinners who measure out our judgments, who declare our guilty verdicts, leading ourselves and anyone else who will follow into a pit called hell. You see, Christianity has a morality. But Christianity is not a morality. Christianity is a man. A man who is God. A God who saves you. A God who yanks your logs out of your eyes. Who nails Himself to them. Who shed His own blood on them. And His blood quenched the bonfire of God’s justice against our blindness, our evil judgments, our wicked choices. That cross shaped pyre of logs still burns the logs out of your eyes. It clears your sight. Curing your blindness. Giving you 20-20 vision. His vision.
But seeing yourself accurately, admitting your faults, your weakness, your wickedness is scary. To see yourself as you actually are is frightening. It can only be done when Someone has already taken the log from your eye. Someone with a clear eye and a steady hand. With the gentleness and empathy of a God who took your flesh, carried your sin, and died for it in your place. He knows that removing your blinders means death to you. Death to your way of life. Death to how you look at yourself and others. For when such a God clears your eye and pours into your lap His overflowing goodness, His graciousness raises up a different you. The real you. His you. The longer you live receiving this grace poured out on you, the more you learn to measure others by this same grace you have received. Which is to say, you judge others gently, mercifully, graciously, speaking truth to our neighbour in love.
Love, friends, is the key. Saying what is true without any love for the person you are saying it about or to is wrath. You may be speaking truth, but you say it intending to hurt them. Meanwhile, love without truth, love that wants to shield your beloved from hurt, and thus will not speak the truth to them is sentimentality. Sentimentality is worse than wrath. Sentimentality knowingly allows your beloved to continue harming themselves. It lets them go to hell, in the name of love. But what kind of love is this?
It is not the love of Our Lord and God. He is not wrathful in His use of truth. He emptied Himself of His just wrath, pouring it out abundantly on Himself on the pyre of the cross. He eagerly desires to pour out His grace to all. But, sadly, some do not want His grace. In love He will force His love on no one. Thus, in love, on the Last Day, He will give His beloved who refuse His grace, who want no part of it, who exclude themselves from it, what they want. He will let them take full credit for what they did. He will let them earn the eternal wages of their sin. He will stop shielding them from it. He does not wish it. It breaks His heart just as it did on the cross.
He is not wrathful. He speaks the truth in love. He removes your specks, your logs. He does not pretend they are not there. He does not turn a blind eye. He pours out His love on you. He teaches you to use His measuring cups and His ways. He is a baker who pours all His best ingredients into the recipe. And when the recipe says, “No more,” He says, “Not enough!” and keeps going. And while that would ruin your recipe or mine, because His eye is clear & He is the master baker, His recipe turns out perfectly. Delicious. Brilliant.
That is good news in a world which is utterly sinful. A world subjected by its own Creator to futility, emptiness, uselessness. We are drifting around without purpose trying to find our value in judging ourselves better than others. We hope this will give us meaning. But our Creator subjected Creation to futility in order to bring you to the end of yourself. To despair of yourself. To realize that you are not better than others. You are the same. Just as hopeless. Just as futile. Just as wicked and wretched before him. Die to yourself. For Christ Jesus has raised you up in the hope of His resurrection. He is the first fruit of the resurrection from the dead. You are the harvest. When you see your body falling apart; when you see your will not able to discipline your flesh and make you do what you know is right, rejoice! For you know that in you lives nothing good, but in Him is life to the full. In your baptism Christ finished the job that sin began. He killed you spiritually. He raised you spiritually. One day it will be done to you physically. In the blink of an eye, in an instant it will be done. The old will be gone. The new will come. Decay will be done. Life will be lived to the full forever. We groan for that day. We long for it. We can not wait for that Day because we believe. We have the outer testimony of God to us in our external Baptism, which put the inner witness of the Spirit in us in that same Baptism. There your Saviour spoke to you the fullness of His love: you are sinner but in My blood you are forgiven. I judge you innocent. I declare you not guilty. I will come again to bring you the fullness of your freedom.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON