Trinity 3 (2013)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
June 16, 2013
Central Passage
Luke 15:1-10

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

When people hear the word “repent” they usually have in mind feeling sorrow over their sin. Repentance is thought to be a troubled conscience over sin. But in truth there’s another word that means to feel sorry or bad about sin: contrition. Contrition is the state of lamenting sin. So when the teenage girl stays out too late and is caught by dad, she is contrite. She feels bad about her actions or at least about being caught. When the Prodigal Son is in the depth of his debauchery and the magnitude of his condition catches up with him, he is contrite. But contrition is not repentance.

Repentance is altogether different. Unlike contrition, repentance is not a feeling. It’s an action. The contrite sinner feels sorry that he has sinned (or that he has been caught sinning), but doesn’t have to do anything to be contrite. To be contrite one only needs lament his condition. He just sits there bemoaning his sin and wishing to be different, even trying to make himself different as the Prodigal Son did. But wanting to change and even doing some things in the way of change isn’t true repentance. That’s self-help. And sinners love self-help books because we so often think that repentance means our efforts; that the sinner that repents does something. But true repentance isn’t something a sinner does but is something that is done to the sinner.

The parable of the lost coin and the lost sheep, even the parable of the Prodigal Son, are told from the Lord’s perspective, from heaven’s perspective, not ours. We are the lost coin and the lost sheep. He is the one that searches for us diligently. And when He finds us there is great rejoicing in heaven, for we were lost but now we are found. And it is when the lost are found that they are said to have repented.

So when I say to you, “repent,” I do not mean, “Feel really bad about what you have done.” Just as the father when he found his son didn’t ask him, ‘Well how sorry are you for what you’ve done?” The father rejoiced over his son who had been found. What I mean when I say “repent” is that Jesus has found you.  And when you have been found by the Lord, the angels of heaven rejoice.

And here is the truth: since we are always sinners, we are always lost. And since we are always lost, Jesus is always looking for and finding us. The Shepherd searches diligently for us. And you know when He has found you when you rejoice at having been found. When you rejoice over the forgiveness of your sins. When you rejoice over the meal prepared for you. You know you are found when you rejoice over Him who found you.

So there were two sons: a young son that squandered his father’s possessions and inheritance and lived the life of debauchery; and an older son who stayed home and worked hard for his father and for what he ate from his father’s table. Two sons who were lost and found, but only one that rejoiced.

The younger son didn’t repent because he bemoaned his sin or because he tried to make himself better and follow a holier path. He repented because his father found him a long away off and ran to greet him and rejoiced over him with all his household, holding a great feast and festival to rejoice that this son that was lost has been found. The son repented when he feasted with his father and rejoiced that he had been found.

The older son, the son that never left his father’s house and worked hard and did right by his father and was the model son, he did not rejoice even though he, too, was found. He was found when the father said to him, “My son, you have always been my son and everything I have is yours.” That’s when he was found. But he did not rejoice. He hated his father for rejoicing over his brother. And the older son, who was so good by worldly standards, was lost by heavenly ones.

That path that leads to death is wide and easy, and many find it. It is called “Self-Righteousness” and it has many stumbling blocks that are marked “try harder” “do more” be a better person” “sin less” and so forth. It is focused on the traveler and what he has done for God. The traveler of this road wears garments labeled “good person” “in control” “moderate” “proper” “socially presentable” even “life-long Lutheran” and “Christian” and so forth. The way is easy because above all sinners love to be praised by others at how good and proper they are, and from what good stock they come. But in truth this path is darkness and those who travel are blind following blind guides. And when the blind follow the blind, they both fall into the pit.

 But the path that leads to life is narrow and hard, and few find it. It is not hard because there are stumbling blocks. There are none. They have been removed by the cross of Christ so that those who walk this road, even if they cannot see, walk surefooted with confidence that they have been found by Jesus. They wear the robes of righteousness, clothed with Christ in holy baptism. This path is marked by the signposts called “holy baptism” “the Lord Supper’ and “holy absolution”. Those who walk this road walk humbly; not the feigned humility of those that love themselves, like the older brother, but the humility of those who know that they were not looking to be found, they were not searching for the Good Shepherd, and they they’ve done nothing to deserve the feast. Their humility is born of the Lord’s mercy and grace, and in Him they rejoice.

You have been found by Jesus. He has found you in holy baptism. He has found you in the good news that for your sake He became sin that you would be the righteousness of God. He has found you in His Holy Supper when He gives you His very body and blood to eat and drink, for the forgiveness of sin and to keep you firm in His word and faith. He has found you in Holy Absolution, wrapping you in robes of righteousness. He has found you today. And in having been found, you have repented and the angles of God are rejoicing.

+ In Nomine Iesu +