“What needs to change for your world to change” Trinity 4 2024

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23. June 2024
Trinity 4
Luke 6:36-42

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Everybody wants to rule the world. So the song goes. But if not the world, then their community. Or they may set their sights lower and seek to rule their congregation. But perhaps that is too much, so they seek to rule their home. But all the while, they fail to rule over themselves. Set aside for the moment whether they have any calling to rule over others. Even this world’s rulers know that their subjects will only subject themselves to a king who manages themselves and their household well. Even if it’s all appearances, artificial and fake, when the time comes, they wear the crown, stand tall, and process with dignity and pomp. They show control of their emotions, words, posture, and demeanor. And often, their subjects will willingly follow.

Of course, we don’t have kings anymore. We have a “ruling class” described as “public servants.” That’s closer to the calling that Jesus gives them. He says by way of the Apostle Paul that “there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God… he is God’s minister to you for good.” But we don’t like them. We hate authority, and we chafe at their rulings. This is because we find that God has given over those in authority to us to their base desires, cravings, and lusts. Scandal after scandal of immoral living and unjust rule rocks every governing house, even the white one. 

What are we to do about it? We judge that they know neither God nor serve the common good. Even worse, when that is our judgment of the house of faith (the congregation) or our own homes, now what? Do we seek to overthrow the authorities of the state and church? Do we divorce our husbands because they are too hard to submit to?  That’s the easy way and might make things easier for a while. And that might be true for a while, but then you quickly realize nothing changes. You could live out from under their thumb for a time. But you find yourself vulnerable to all sorts of attacks with no one to serve in your defense. You thought you wanted to rule your world until you discovered what that was like.

So then, you elect someone new, change churches, or start dating again. Put yourself under a new authority, and then it’ll be better. But then you discover that while some things are different, nothing seems to have changed in reality. Why not? What’s missing? Where did you go wrong? We will always be hypocrites when we judge others without first being judged ourselves. Hypocrisy is to put oneself above judgment, and Jesus calls it blindness. “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

Jesus makes this assertion in many and various ways throughout Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain,” just as He has in Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount.” Regardless of location, Jesus insists that your world can only change if you change. You want a better world, community, church, and home. That’s commendable. But how have your attempts at reform and correction gone? Has your voting or political action changed anything? Do your complaints about others bring about the kind of community you want? Has your bickering, badgering, and berating accomplished any good? You see the futility of political solutions, with all its talk of rule, authority, dominion, power, jurisdiction, functions, and the like. They don’t change anything. Why not? Because they are imposed and demanded, and no one changes, not the least the heart. You can only begin to have the world you want if you change yourself. No one else is changing for you.

So Jesus lays out what needs to change for your world to change. He says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods, do not ask them back… But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return… Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.Give, and it will be given to you…” Do these things, and you’ll start to see the world change. 

But now, the hardest part. We can’t change, and we don’t do them. Jesus today demands of us what we cannot do ourselves. Even recognizing that if anything is going to be different, it has to start at home, in our hearts. Now you can hear the Offertory Psalm and the plea of Spirit-given faith: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Now, you begin to understand why faith compels us to confess that “I am a poor, miserable sinner.” We have no problem saying the world is opposed to Jesus. We might even confess that our congregation or families sin against God. But dare I say I have sinned against God by thought, word, and deed, or by what I have done and left undone? Dare you to confess the same? Thanks be to God; yes, we confess and receive His forgiveness where He promises it and gives it: in Holy Absolution, the Holy Word, and His Holy Body and Blood. Jesus Christ, the crucified, makes all things new by His suffering, death, and resurrection. 

That’s Jesus pulling out the log from your own eye so that you may forgive your brother. That’s Jesus making you a good tree so that you bear fruit in due season. That’s Jesus making you a good man, with a heart full of good treasure, to bring forth good. That’s Jesus freeing your tongue to speak the truth and not lies. That’s Jesus removing all judgment and condemnation, forgiving and giving you salvation and new life now. That’s Jesus loving you despite your making Him your enemy by sin. That’s Jesus doing good to you, who hate who He made you to be, where He called and put you. That’s Jesus blessing you despite your spiteful vitriol and vice. That’s Jesus changing you by giving you Himself, even now and always.

Everybody wants to rule the world, the household of faith, or their own home. But Jesus shows us the better way, indeed the only way. He calls us to suffer all for His sake. He puts us in loving service to all those whom He has given us to love, even if they hate us, do us harm, insult us, or even want to kill us. But we know that we can’t suffer that. So, He gives us to live in daily confession and absolution, making us new, clean, and whole again. And living in His forgiveness, He promises to open our eyes to change how we see the world around us—sinners for whom Jesus died to raise from the dead and a creation that will be resurrected on the last day. 

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin