Jesus reveals surprising things about who enjoys blessings and who endures woe. He invites his disciples to shower radical love, blessings, forgiveness, generosity, and trust, even to enemies and outsiders. In holy baptism God makes saints out of sinners. In holy communion God forgives the sins of all the saints. On All Saints Day we give thanks for all the saints “who from their labors rest,” who have fought the good fight, who have gained the crown. In the same breath we petition our God for the strength to hear and to heed the admonitions of the Lord Jesus in today’s gospel. Recalling that we have been sealed by the Spirit and sustained by the Savior’s body and blood, we keep on keeping on as God gives us breath, to the praise of God’s glory.
* This Sunday is Reformation Sunday when we celebrate our Lutheran heritage and membership in the oldest and largest Protestant denomination. And yet, in what ways do we cling to that heritage instead of to Christ?
* Do we really know Christ Jesus to be the "truth" (v 32)? In "what" or "whom" do we place our faith? For many, faith and trust is put in the security of our incomes, investments, and retirement prospects. Whenever Jesus no longer becomes the "truth that sets us free," we lose our freedom (v 31).
* The ultimate tragedy is that God has no room for the religious, or being Lutheran. Without faith in Christ alone, we miss the promise. The faithless are deprived of any permanent place in God's "household" (v.35).
* Faith alone frees us: + from the power of sin, + for the ability to continue in the Word. Truly living a life of faith in Christ is what we celebrate on Reformation Sunday.
* The "faith" proclaimed by Paul, and Augustine, and then eventually Luther is a living faith in Christ that is real in our daily living. It is faith in Christ that revealed the truth to Luther and "set him free."
* It was the gift of faith that enabled Luther to continue in God's Word. It was faith in Christ that animated and empowered Luther's discipleship. It was faith that shaped Luther's reforms. And, it is faith in Christ that reveals God's truth to us about our sinful bondage and the new ability Christ offers us to continue in his Word.
* The Spirit's gift of faith connects us to Christ and offers us a place in God's "household." Getting into the household comes from having a member of the house, who lives there, invite us in. Christ Jesus is that one.
* What is faith? 1.) Ability to believe/cling to the Crucified one for salvation. 2.) Given through baptism to reveal our sinful separation from God.
This parable of Jesus presents a contrast between a Pharisee and a tax collector. If ever there was a self-made, self-assured man it would be the Pharisee. A pharisee's accomplishments went above and beyond the call of duty. They fasted at least twice a week. They gave a weekly double tithe (10%) - a tithe offering on their income and a tithe offering on their accumulated wealth! They were outwardly the best example of how a child of God should live their life. Pharisees were honest, hardworking, and exemplary citizens. They were maybe most known for their prayer life. Many Biblical scholars today believe that Jesus was himself a member of the Pharisees. If ever there was a class of people that we categorically despised, it would be the tax collectors. They were looked down upon as those without any piety, and worst of all, they were morally corrupt, sending into bankruptcy the poor who could not pay. In this Gospel, the tax collector even breaks all the prayer customs of the day - his eyes looked down and his prayer was crude and did not follow a prescribed pattern. If ever there was a story with a surprise ending, this is it! Jesus announces that it is the tax collector who leaves the temple justified and not the Pharisee. Jesus uncovers the arrogance of the Pharisee who justified his life before God by comparing himself with other people. And yet, the Pharisee's worst offense is his belief that a person can make their relationship better with God by the way they live their life. In contrast, Jesus insists that the tax collector had a good relationship with God because he depended upon God's forgiveness above to renew his relationship with God. The challenge is not to measure ourselves against others (especially those who are living in sin). Christ calls us to measure ourselves against the standards of God's moral Law, and then repent.
Jesus tells a parable of a hateful judge who is worn down by a widow’s pleas. Jesus is calling God’s people to cry out for justice and deliverance. For if an unethical judge will ultimately grant the plea of a persistent widow, how much more will God respond to those who call. Pray always. Do not lose heart. This is the encouragement of the Christ of the gospel today. Persistence in our every encounter with the divine will be blessed. Wrestle with the word. Remember your baptism again and again throughout each day. Come regularly to Christ’s table. Persistence in our every encounter with the Lord will be blessed. The parable’s one point is that God hears the cries of people and responds to them without delay. Are we as quick to wait for God’s answer to our prayers?
Jesus’ mission includes making the unclean clean again. Unexpectedly, a cleansed Samaritan leper (outcast) becomes a model for those who would praise and worship God and give thanks for God’s mercy. This Gospel reminds us that we too have been healed. The waters of baptism have healed us. The body and blood of Jesus in communion have made us clean. We have died with Christ and been raised with him. For all this we have returned to offer thanks. From this place we are sent on our way rejoicing to share the good news. How wonderful it is each time we receive the body and blood of our Savior in worship! It is a true Eucharist—a great thanksgiving—of what our Lord has given to us. Each time we feast on the bread and wine—the true presence of Christ—Christ fills us with good things: the forgiveness of sins and life eternal.