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"God, Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner!"

Luke 18:9-14

Rev. Kurt Hering

Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
Trinity Lutheran Church  
Layton, Utah


right-click to download MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Aug 31, 2014 

Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.

“God, Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner!” is the confession, attitude, and prayer life of the Christian. 

It’s not much of a slogan, or mission statement. It doesn’t have a lot of pop and sizzle. It’s not going to fill a football stadium or build a television empire.

But is the confession, attitude, and prayer life of the Christian and the church of God in Christ Jesus. “God, Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner!”

...While the world began their long holiday celebration this past week, the Church commemorated the lives of St. Augustine [August 28] and St. Monica [August 27], his mother; as well as the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptizer [August 29]. Each of these are related and help us understand the mercy of our Lord and the working life of the Christian.

To hear the entire sermon preached for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, click on the MP3 audio link provided above. The audio begins with the Old Testament Reading, Genesis 4:1-15. The sermon begins at the 13:05 point of the mp3 file.

A servant of the Word and His folk,

Pastor Hering

For those of you who prefer to read or read along while listening, the preaching outline follows below.

Nota bene: Sermons are meant to be heard. Some points from the outline are explained and filled out during the preaching, so you will need to listen to the audio file to get the full sermon.

TEXT: 9[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9–14

Dear Baptized,

“God, Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner!” is the confession, attitude, and prayer life of the Christian. 

It’s not much of a slogan, or mission statement. It doesn’t have a lot of pop and sizzle. It’s not going to fill a football stadium or build a television empire.

But is the confession, attitude, and prayer life of the Christian and the church of God in Christ Jesus. “God, Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner!”

As Luther teaches the Baptized children, and adults preparing to be Baptized, toward the heavenly banquet table of our Lord to receive His very body and blood: “When I urge you to go to confession, I am simply urging you to be a Christian.” [Large Catechism, Brief Exhortation 32]

Not every Christian will lead as holy and blameless a life and be blessed with riches and success as the Pharisee. In fact, most will not.

And not every unbeliever will be as poor and miserable a sinner as the “extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” the Pharisee names. In fact, again, most will not.

But there is something that everybody--every single one of us past, present, and future, has in common--whether the seemingly holy and blameless of the world who live lives so charmed if they fall into a pile of manure they come out smelling like a rose and counting their cash; or the poorest, most miserable sinners who can’t catch a break and seem to live from day to day going from one failure or beat down to the next--all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Romans 3:23-25

All that is to say, no matter how perfect and blessed one’s life, it is nothing to thump one’s chest and boast about—it counts for nothing before the throne of God and will disappear in the blink of an eye at the last trumpet sound. [1 Thessalonians 4:16]

And no matter how poor and miserable one’s life in this world, no one is beyond redemption and the hope of the life to come.

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [Ephesians 2:8-9]

Funny how on this holiday weekend that celebrates American labor we have this verse set before us. Labor Day is all about the worker—organized labor, really. According to the UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, this national holiday “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families.... Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.”

…as if by working, people are doing anything special, rather than what they were originally created, and now are meant to be redeemed to do in Christ Jesus.

• “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it…. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God … made … a woman and brought her to the man.” [Genesis 2:15, 20-21]

• For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [Ephesians 2:10]

While the world began their long holiday celebration this past week, the Church commemorated the lives of St. Augustine [August 28] and St. Monica [August 27], his mother; as well as the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptizer [August 29]. Each of these are related and help us understand the mercy of our Lord and the working life of the Christian.

John had his head served up on a silver platter for being so bold as to chastise King Herod and his adulterous marriage to his sister-in-law. John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.” Mark 6:18

In his book “Confessions,” Augustine (the Bishop of Hippo) “describes his conversion to Christianity through the devotion of his sainted mother, Monica, and the preaching of Ambrose (Bishop of Milan). When he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son, they followed 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

St. Augustine and his mother, St. Monica, give all of us who grieve over loved ones who do not yet know Christ as their Savior or who have strayed from the faith.

“We should preach the Word, but the results must be left solely to God’s good pleasure . . . I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.” (LW 51:77)

And John the Baptizer reminds us again of the purpose of the Church and the message of her ministers.

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:1-2

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

Yes, dearly beloved of God, this is the confession, attitude, and prayer life of the Christian and the church of God in Christ Jesus. “God, Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner!” For when we so confess as we come before the altar and mercy seat of our Lord in the Divine Service and wherever the Word of Christ is proclaimed and delivered for the forgiveness of sins, with the tax collector, we leave the house of the Lord and go down to [our] houses—and back to work in our jobs, at school, in our neighborhoods, and in our homes--- justified and doing the work, the very labor we have been created in Christ Jesus [to do, and] which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them--the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen



Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.



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