Old Testament Lesson Genesis 4:1-15
Second Lesson 2 Timothy 4:6-8; 16-18
Gospel Lesson Luke 18:9-17
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read. [Luke 18:9-17]
We’re living in a moment in time that’s at the crossroads of individual celebration. We’re treated to the spectacle of individual celebration every time a tight end or fullback crosses over into the end zone, or a defender sacks a quarterback, and in a couple of days we’ll be treated to celebration with every great play that happens during the World Series. We’re treated to performance after performance that proclaims ‘It’s all about me!’
But displays of ‘It’s all about me!’ aren’t limited to athletic events. These other displays may not be as flamboyant or as obvious, but they’re every bit as planned and thought out. It comes out at work, when we out do the competition; when we win that contract, or we finish a job well under the bid. It happens when we get a better grade than those around us, or we get picked over someone else.
Oh yeahhh; it’s all about me. It’s all about me; and I want to make sure you see that I did it all myself. I didn’t need any help. … This kind of attitude is strictly a worldly thing, a material, societal thing; not a spiritual thing, right? When it comes to spiritual things, we’d never think of shouting ‘It’s all about me!’. We’re humble Lutherans. We’re light years away from acting like the Pharisee in the gospel reading today, right? The 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. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
We know the Lutheran answer: we’re saved by grace alone through faith, apart from any works of the Law; and everyone knows we know the right answer too. We don’t take credit for our salvation. We know better than that. That’d clearly be an ‘All about me!’ moment; but that’s not us. We’re better than that. Every Sunday we remind ourselves ‘If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves!’ We know that!
We know that, and we know a lot of other important things too. We know a lot of scriptural one-liners. We read the Bible … often. We come to church … often. We do all the right things. In fact, we’re doing pretty good. In fact, we’re pretty good. We do our best and we try hard to stay away from temptation. God loves us, and I’m sure he smiles every time he looks down from heaven at us. After all, what more could God want? ….
It’s easy to talk yourself into thinking you’re doing everything necessary for salvation. But if that’s your point of view … aren’t you having an ‘All about me!’ moment? We’d like to tell ourselves no. We’d like to convince ourselves that it’s only natural to do our part for our salvation; and it’s only natural that our best efforts would count for something; to be recognized by God, to be worthy, even if that only counts just a little.
And it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to justify our thoughts. For example, if our thoughts are an ‘All about me’ moment, what about St. Paul’s thoughts in the Epistle lesson today: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, If that’s not an ‘All about me’ moment, why should my thoughts about my own good works be seen as one?
Don’t try to shed responsibility for your thoughts on someone as praiseworthy as St. Paul. Paul of all people knew that his efforts, his fight, his faith all came from God. It wasn’t his work that convinced unbelievers to become believers. It wasn’t his work that kept him going as he ran the race. It wasn’t his focus, or his depth of concentration or his personal fortitude that kept him in the faith throughout all his trials and tribulations.
He knew that he was the chief of sinners and he trusted fully and completely in the mercy of God, just like the tax collector who standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’. These two men understood that the victories in their lives weren’t a result of their own efforts, but solely the result of God’s grace and mercy. For them, life wasn’t ‘All about me!’; it was ‘All about God!’
They acknowledged God was in charge, not only of their lives, but of everything that happened around them. They acknowledged that all of their efforts were damaged by sin, and yet great things were done in their lives. Through them, lives were changed as the gospel was proclaimed in word and action. Through them, lives were changed as the love of Jesus was shared in a simple act of men of God carrying out their vocations in Christian love and witness.
And yet not one of these great moments worthy of celebration were ‘All about them!’. They were ‘All about God’. And, in the same way, God creates great moments through his children today. Great things are done through our lives and through the lives of repentant sinners everywhere.
Lives are changed as we proclaim the gospel in word and action. Lives are changed as we share the love of Jesus, the love he first gave us. Lives are changed through the simple act of carrying out our vocations in Christian love and witness. And yet all these great moments we live in, as the kingdom of God grows among us, aren’t the result of our work, but the result of the Spirit’s work. These aren’t ‘All about us!’ moments; they are ‘All about God!’ moments.
That’s what stewardship is all about; doing the will of God, doing what he directs as his kingdom comes among us. It’s not about ‘guilt giving’ where the Law motivates you to give, in order to pay God back for the many sins you’ve committed; and it’s not about ‘needs giving’ as if I should lay before you the many needs of this congregation in hopes that your time and talents and money would be committed to meet those needs. It’s not even about being motivated by serving your neighbor through the many avenues of the ‘social gospel’ that your congregation is involved in, so that by seeing the many needs in our community you might be encouraged to give. None of these are proper means of motivating good stewardship.
In the end, all of these produce ‘All about me!’ moments; and we know that those moments are short lived and bring glory to men not glory to the one who deserves all glory. No, God sends us a much more powerful message about stewardship in the lessons today.
Stewardship stems from mercy, God’s mercy; but those who don’t see their sin, those who glory in themselves and look for the ‘All about me!’ moments, don’t see a need for mercy. They may not call themselves perfect, but they see themselves as ‘good enough’ and that means good enough to reject the forgiveness offered by their Savior; but those who know they are sinners, and are repentant, welcome their Savior, receiving him by faith.
The same faith that gives to God not by the percent or by obligation, but out of trust in his mercy; mercy we know we need; mercy that transformed our lives from lives of slavery to lives of freedom.
We’re children of our heavenly Father and we follow his example. As we give to him, we return to him what he’s first given us; not just time, talents, and treasures, but life. We give our lives to him, not out of our own generosity, but out of his grace and mercy. He sacrificed his Son to bring you from death to life. We sacrifice our lives of sin to him because through him we’ve received that new life, eternal life. What else can we do?
Once we were sinners whose lives cried out, ‘It’s all about me!’; but now, thanks to God’s mercy, we’re children who shout, ‘It’s all about God!’.
In Jesus name, Amen.
In Christ’s service,