Trinity 11, 2012
Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
August 19, 2012
Central Passage
Luke 18:9-14

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


When the Lord gathered us together a week ago and spoke to us, He reminded and taught us that His house, His temple, is a house of prayer. Today the Lord teaches you what sort of prayer is said in His house.
When Luther had died and his body was being prepared for burial, a small piece of paper was discovered in the inseam of his coat. It read: “In the end, we are beggars one and all.”  Luther understood what our Lord is teaching us today; that we are beggars who beg from the Lord, mercy and all things. Nothing is ours by right. Nothing. Not your clothes, not your car, not your house, not your wife or children, not your husband, not your money, not your freedoms, nothing. Nothing is yours by right. Everything pleasant and good is given to you by your heavenly Father. And everything your heavenly Father gives is good because His kindness brings to repentance and faith.
So we ask the Lord for all things. Not unwaveringly, but confidently as a little child asks confidently of his father for whatever his heart desires. Young children think dad and mom can give them the moon. They ask for Disney World, for a pony, for endless ice cream, candy, McDonald’s, and so on. Without a thought or care about money or priorities or time or anything. They just ask for what they want. As the child grows he learns that dad and mom can’t give everything he’s asked for, and so his requests become what we call “more realistic”. But we are to have faith a child, not faith like a discerning adult. Ask and it shall be given. For everyone who asks receives.
But we immediately think, “Yes, but we can’t ask for everything we want.” Repent. Not of asking for what you desire, but for desiring what the Lord has forbidden.
We take pride in the fact that we don’t ask for those things that the Lord has forbidden even thought we want them. We don’t ask for them, but we think about them and daydream about them; thinking about how different things could be if we had this much money or this different house or this sort of family or what it would be like to really live with no inhibitions or morals or conscience. Not because we want to hurt other people or let chaos reign, but because we want to be satisfied in this life. And what the Lord provides doesn’t satisfy. If it did, then we wouldn’t daydream about those things which the Lord has forbidden.
But we don’t ask for them. Things like divorce, greed, lust, gluttony, laziness and such things. And when we do ask for them we justify it by showing why we need a divorce or why it’s not really greed that makes us work and neglect our family, or why it’s not gluttony and consumption that drives our debt and our fear of running out of money.  But thank God, we say, that we know that we should not ask for these things and that we don’t ask for them unless we think we need them. Thank God we know our boundaries and limits and have been given morals so that we don’t pursue these wicked and debase things – like other people do.
There is no difference between the heart’s desire and what is asked for. There is no difference between the heart and the lips, for out of the abundance of the heart and man speaks. And even if we do not ask so that human ears can hear, we cannot be so silent that the ears of God do not hear. There is no divide between what we want and what we ask for. And any illusion of self-control and self-denial is just that, an illusion.
The evil of the Pharisee is that he thanked God that he wasn’t all those horrible things when he should have been thanking God for His mercy. We should thank God for His mercy, that He has protected our reputation so that even though we are such sinners, no one knows the depths of our sinfulness and depravity. In His mercy, God has protected your reputation so that though you are evil, people don’t consider you as murders, thieves, liars, cheats, and greedy grab-alls. What the Pharisee should have thanked God for is God’s protection over him even thought he is such a sinner.
We act all aghast and horrified at the proposition that we are so debased, and that is what damns us. It’s not that we truly don’t want what the Lord has forbidden or that we haven’t sought what He has said “don’t seek,” but we want others to think of us as good and moral and upright, not like thieves and robbers and degenerates. So we deny our sinfulness before God who sees all. But I don’t have to tell you the depravity of your heart and mind. The fact that you are desperately trying to justify what you have done and denying what others don’t know you have done is proof enough how depraved you are.
The sin of the Pharisee is that when comparing himself to others he found himself more righteous and thought that this righteousness was pleasing to God.  How quick we are to remind everyone of what it means to live a moral and godly life by pointing to ourselves. We want everyone to know how good and decent and godly we are, and so we make sure to condemn those things we either haven’t done or that no one has caught us doing, or we justify ourselves for those things we have done and are known to have done. We judge and so we are judged.
In justifying ourselves we fail to rely on the righteousness of Christ and boast of our own righteousness. And the truth is, we are constantly doing this. You are constantly judging others by what you have or have not done. You are constantly measuring other people by your own behavior and status in society; even comparing your sincerity when you confess your sins to what you think must be the insincerity of others because you know what they’re really like during the week. You know they’re not sorry for their sins as you are for yours. We even rate our church going, comparing it to others who may not go as much as we do. They are not as good as us. We are so steeped in justifying ourselves that even when the Lord shows you your sin you immediately compare yourself to the messenger He is using. I may have done this or that wicked thing, but look what you have done! So that instead of being led to repentance and faith, you receive condemnation and judgment just as the Pharisee did.
But wisdom is known by her children. And the children of wisdom come to the temple of the Lord, not because they are good and righteous and are godly folks trying to prove to the world or their friends how good they are because they go to church. The children of wisdom come to the temple of the Lord to pray the prayer of the publican: Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. Because in the end we are beggars one and all.
Your prayer is answered, o sinner. You have mercy. Your sins do not damn you. All the evil you desire, all the wickedness you drink deeply from, your Lord Jesus has taken as His desire. He has drained the cup of sin and unrighteousness so that you go home justified. You are coved with the blood of Jesus; with His righteousness He clothes you and dresses you so that you stand holy and righteous before God. He has cleansed you and welcomes you into His Father’s house where together with Him you pray and petition the Father for all things pertaining to life and godliness.
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +