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Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
August 7, 2016
Central Passage
Luke 18:9-14
Description

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Good and upright is the Lord, therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. (Psalm 25:8-9)

What is the way of God? Jesus says, “I AM the Way.” The first Christians were not called “Christians” but they were called “followers of the Way.” A more appropriate title I cannot think of. We are followers of the Way, which is Jesus.

But we don’t follow Jesus like a touring group follows its tourist guide. We follow Him like a disciple follows a master. That is to say that we follow Him in life. We live life like He lived life. We live like He lived life because He lived to God and He lives to God. He pressed on toward the goal, which was to live in the presence of the Father. He scorned the shame that He bore. He endured the cross. He set His face toward Jerusalem. He wept for those who rejected Him. He rebuked those who lied about Him. He forgave those who sought Him. He healed those who asked Him. He comforted those who mourned. He promised Paradise to those who confessed Him. In all of this He did the will of the Father. He achieved the goal because of His obedience to the Father. Jesus obeyed the Father and was rewarded for His obedience. That’s what St. Peter preaches in Acts chapter two, and what the other apostles preach elsewhere.

St. Paul also preaches that we press on toward the goal. And the Lord teaches us that whoever keeps His words is like a builder who builds his house on the Rock. So we press on toward the goal, keeping the words of Jesus. We press on toward the goal of the upward calling of Christ Jesus that we, too, would live in the presence of the Father as our Lord Jesus does. We keep the words of Jesus so that we will hear the final words of Jesus: “Beloved of the Father, come and receive the inheritance prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

“Beloved of the Father.” That’s what Jesus is. He is the beloved of the Father. And in Him we, too, are the beloved of the Father. For we have been buried with Jesus through Baptism into His death that we might also live with Him in His life toward God.

But what has all this to do with the Pharisee and the Tax Collector? It has everything to do with the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee was a liar while the Tax Collector confessed the truth.

It’s not that the Pharisee did all those nasty things he ascribed to others and failed to do the things he boasted of. He is a liar because he is like other men. If this were not so then the Lord Jesus did not come for his salvation or to redeem him. When he says that he is not like other men he lies and he calls God a liar. Satan is the father of lies and has been a liar from the beginning. Lies are not just morally wrong, they are evil and of the devil. Not just the lies we tell others to get away with something we’ve done or to get something we don’t really deserve. The real lie is the lie we tell ourselves that we are not like other men. If we are not like other men in their sin then neither are we like them in their righteousness, which is Christ, for He is the righteousness of God for men.

Repent. Stop lying. You need Church. You need the Eucharist. You need the Bible. You need this congregation. You need a pastor. You need to confess your sins. You need to be absolved. You need to pray. You need to give alms and fast. Why? Not because by doing these things or having these things you gather to yourself a storehouse of goodness but because these things are the truth. And you need the Truth. Jesus said, “I am the Truth.”

The Tax Collector told the truth. It’s not just that he told the truth about himself but that he told the truth about God. The Lord good and upright, therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. The truth is right. Not in a mathematical way but in an ontological way – that is, in a way that involves its very essence.

The truth is right because the truth is. Lies are wrong because they speak of what is not. Jesus said: “I AM.” He is. In the beginning was the Truth. The devil seeks to blind us to the truth. He lies to us. And those of us who fall into temptation fall into lies. We fall into evil. We fall into nothingness.

But the Lord Jesus our God is good and upright. He leads us sinners in His way, which is to speak – to confess – the truth. That is what the Tax Collector did and that is why he went down to his house justified. He participated in the truth about himself and about God. That is how we press on toward the goal of the upward calling in Christ Jesus. That is how we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling: by confessing the truth about ourselves and about God.

This truth will set you free. It might take a lifetime, but it will set you free. Right now you feel as though you are in bondage to sin, to death. But the truth is that in Christ you are free. You feel as though the world is crushing you, that you can barely breathe because of all the wickedness in this world. But the truth is that you are yoked to Christ whose burden is easy and whose yoke is light. It seems as though others have it better than you and that you are suffering the ill effects of the lies of others and their hatred and mistreatment of you. But the truth is you are blessed and you will see the kingdom of heaven.

But don’t lie. Don’t think that you are not like other men or that you do what you do because you have your own level of righteousness and goodness. Let the Pharisee be a stark warning for you. Remember, he prayed by himself. Even though he was in the temple we was not with God for God is no liar and He does not dwell with sin, with lies.

In another divine irony, even though the Pharisee thought he spoke to God and spoke of other people, boasting in himself as if all eyes were and should be on him, his pride actually caused him to be all alone with no one to hear his prayer or to welcome him home. He had neither brother nor sister nor mother, He had no true God. He was a liar and belongs to the evil one.

But the humility of the Tax Collector was honored by the Father because it was the truth. He has brothers and sisters and mothers because he does the will of the Father and speaks the truth. He has the true God who is merciful to sinners and kind to beggars and lifts up those of humble estate. Here you speak the truth. You gather to your Lord and your God to hear His word and to confess the truth. The Lord instructs you in the way by giving you His body to eat and His blood to drink. He leads you in what is right. You are going home – not to your earthly houses, which are but tents in the dessert – but you are going home to your Father’s house where there are many rooms. You will go home justified because you participate in the Way, the Truth, and the Life, which is Christ Jesus, our Lord.

+In Nomie Iesu +