Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fatherly Discipline, Fatherly Love (Sermon preached August 25, Proper 16-C)

In the name of T Jesus.
            You and I have a Father who desperately wants to keep you, and all His children, for all eternity.  You and I are the Father’s sons and daughters.  By Holy Baptism we became coheirs, with His only-begotten Son, of all the Father’s blessings.  Your sin was crucified with Christ.  With Jesus, your eternal life has burst forth from His empty tomb.  Salvation belongs to the Lord, and he gives it freely to His sons and daughters.  The Father loves you, his children.  His desire is to keep you for all eternity.  This is why He must discipline you.
            Of course, like all children, we would rather not be disciplined, at least at first.  But this morning, God the Holy Spirit will bring us to maturity, and will teach us to welcome the Father’s discipline with thanksgiving.  By God’s Word we will see, that when the Father gives His Law, it is Good and Wise.  We will learn that the Father’s discipline brings with it the fruit of repentance and faith.  This is how he turns His children from their sin, so that they would flee to Jesus, who from the curse has set us free.  The Father’s discipline brings us to righteousness.
Consider first today’s Gospel reading.  It would be difficult to find a clearer passage in all of scripture to remind us of the importance of our Father’s discipline.  When asked if those who are saved will be few, Jesus’ answer should catch the attention of even the most faithful churchgoers.  Many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.  When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from.  Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ (Luke 12:24-27)  Talk about a narrow door.  So narrow, in fact, is the way of salvation, that many who live their lives thinking that they will inherit the kingdom, will be sent away from the Lord, and into that place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
            People who ate and drank with Jesus; folks who gathered to hear him teach in their streets; thrown out of His presence and into eternal death.  Haven’t we eaten with Jesus?  Haven’t we drank from the cup of His blood?  Haven’t we gathered together for confirmation classes, Bible classes, and haven’t we had devotional time to learn the Lord’s teaching?  How are we any different than those who Jesus calls workers of evil?  How are we to know if we will avoid our own weeping and gnashing of teeth?  How are we to know whether or not the door is too narrow for us?  Hear again verses 5 and 6 of the Epistle, from Hebrews, chapter 12:
            My son(s) (and daughters), do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son (and daughter) whom he receives.

So how do you receive the discipline of the Father?
            For many, the discipline of the Father is good, as long as it is applied to someone else.  When they hear the Law clearly preached, they respond by saying to their pastor: “You really got ‘em today.”  “They really needed to hear that.”  Or maybe this sort of person just sits in the pew thinking, “I know someone like that.”  The problem is, if the Father’s discipline is always intended for someone else, than the Father is not treating you as a son or daughter, for the one who He disciplines is the one He loves.
            Other folks are simply convinced that the Father’s discipline no longer applies.  It goes something like this: “the Old Testament was full of rules and regulations, but now we have the New Testament, which is all about love and peace.  Do you really think I could go to hell for dishonoring my parents, or for ripping off my employees, or for having premarital sex, or for hating that guy at church, or for harming my classmates reputation, or for scheming to get my brothers inheritance, or for encouraging my neighbor’s wife or workers to leave him, or turn away from him.  God loves me just the way I am.”
            Well, God the Father does love you, but He has no intention of leaving you in your sin, walking down the path that leads away from heaven.  He hates the sin that flows from your heart: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (Matthew 15:19). And yes, this does apply to all of us, you and me.  There’s no denying it.
            In your own struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  In other words, when temptation has come upon you, you have fallen.  You have not been able to stand up against the devil’s attacks and come out unscathed like Jesus Christ.  You have not been able to humble yourself to the point of death, rather than seek your own glory.  Unlike Jesus, you have fallen short of the glory of God, which is why the Father doesn’t simply leave you as you are.  No, the Father disciplines you because he loves you.  His desire is to keep you.
            And so, my friends, there is another response to the Father’s discipline—a faithful response.  This response is only taught by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.  And it enables the Father’s sons and daughters, sinners like you and me, to confess the absurd:
·         Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. (Psalm 119:97)
·         My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws. (Psalm 119:20)
·          I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path. (Psalm 119:127-128)
·         I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law. (Psalm 119:163)

The faithful response, made possible only as the Holy Spirit gives faith in the Word, is to receive the Father’s discipline with thanksgiving.  With eyes of faith, the Holy Spirit teaches us to know that the Father’s discipline is always for our good, for by it he chases away the sin that so easily entangles, and produces in us the repentance that leads us to the cross, where our righteousness is found.
            We have all had earthly parents who disciplined us and we respected them. Listen to how Dr. Luther describes the respect we have for our earthly parents:
Every head of a household must punish and should not tolerate evil…A father does not punish his son in order to make him spiteful and ruin him in body and soul, but rather to ward off his vice; he wants to purify him and wipe away his faults.  He hates, not the person, but the vice.  This is a wrathful love which is kind and good toward the person; hence it cannot tolerate the nastiness in him.  So, too a woman cannot bear it when there is dirt on her child’s nose, but must wipe it away; she does not do this in order to hurt the child.  Magistrates, teachers, and parents must chastise, but this chastisement is fatherly and kind.[1]

So, if we can readily admit that our earthly parents’ discipline is good and wise, shall we not much more be subject to our perfect heavenly Father?  Our earthly parents disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, praying for help, and experimenting along the way, but God the Father’s discipline is always Good and Wise.  The Father disciplines us, his children, so that he might keep us as His children.  His discipline serves to keep us on that narrow way spoken of by Jesus, and for this reason, we receive the Father’s discipline with joy and thanksgiving, even though it isn’t fun or pleasant.  And according to the Scriptures, it won’t be fun or pleasant.
When the Law is preached or taught to us in such a way that it pierces through to our heart and causes us to see our sin in the mirror, it isn’t fun or pleasant.  It forces us to change our sinful ways, to flee from temptation, to put to an end certain behaviors, and to ultimately admit that our ways are often times not the ways of the Lord.  The Father’s discipline in the law humbles us, and while it isn’t pleasant at the time, in repentance and faith, we learn to receive it with joy and thanksgiving.  As sons and daughters who have been instructed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, we know that the Law’s greater purpose is to drive us to repentance, where we are stripped of our self-righteousness, and by faith, find our refuge in the cross, and the blood of Jesus which flows from it.
            Even the Father’s only begotten Son, did not find the Father’s discipline to be pleasant at the time: "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me."  But the Father would not refrain from disciplining His own Son—and so, Jesus became the mediator of a new covenant, and His blood was sprinkled out so that it would speak a better word than the Law.
            You see, the Father’s wrath and final judgment has been carried out on His Son, so that you, His children, would not suffer the same fate, and be separated for all eternity.  You and I have a Father who desperately wants to keep you, and all His children, for all eternity.  You and I are the Father’s sons and daughters.  And so, He disciplines You, by His Word, he trains you through the crosses you bear, and he instructs you in the midst of your greatest burdens, to cling to Him.  So that you too would confess how you delight in His law, how you welcome His discipline, how you give thanks for His instruction—even when it isn’t fun or pleasant.
But how much joy there will be on that Day when the Son of God will appear and say: “Behold, I am your Savior and Deliverer…I have chastised you that your sin might be purged away and that you might acknowledge Me as your God and Savior”! [2]

You and I have a heavenly Father who disciplines us, His children, because He desperately wants to keep us for all of eternity.  Salvation belongs to the Lord, and he gives it by grace to His sons and daughters who in repentance and faith, flee for refuge to Jesus, who from the curse has set us free.  Disciplined by the Father, and repenting of our sin, we humbly worship at His throne, Saved by His grace through faith alone.  In the name of T Jesus. Amen.

[1] Luther, Martin: Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan (HRSG.); Oswald, Hilton C. (Hrsg.); Lehmann, Helmut T. (Hrsg.); Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1959 (Luther’s Works 51), S. 51:298.
[2]Luther, Martin: Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan (Hrsg.) ; Oswald, Hilton C. (Hrsg.) ; Lehmann, Helmut T. (Hrsg.): Luther's Works, Vol. 8 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 45-50. Saint Louis : Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1966 (Luther's Works 8), S. 8:12

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