St. Luke 14: 1-11, Ephesians 4:1-6
September 26, 2021 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Pharisees are outraged at Jesus’ compassion on the Sabbath. They strut in front of the crowd, outraged at what Jesus has said and done. Eventually, they will stir up the crowd to get a guilty man freed, a man who is a true danger to their wives and children, in order to get an innocent man killed. Imagine what they could have done if they had Facebook and Twitter!
The Pharisees don’t care about the Sabbath. What they care about is being admired by men and holding on to power. They misuse God’s Word as though it was a club to be used against others to prove their superior spirituality.
This is completely familiar to us. Who hasn’t been the victim of a sanctimonious in-law who says that she would have never allowed someone else to raise her children by sending them to school or taste corn syrup or watch a Disney movie? Who hasn’t been afraid to put a political sign in his yard because his neighbors might vandalize his house? Worse though, who hasn’t felt outrage and engaged in dark fantasies at a stop light simply because the car in front of him had a bumper sticker of a despised political campaign?
We are victims of the outrage that feigns righteousness for attention. We suffer from virtue signalling and cancel culture. But we are also perpetrators. We judge others and we give in to anger. Repent.
Jesus loves you. He is unashamed of you. He has the right to be angry but isn’t. We don’t know where the man with dropsy came from. He might have been the son of the host or a random guest or he might have followed Jesus there. But as Luke reports it, Jesus calls and heals him without request. Jesus saw him, had compassion, called him out from the crowd, and heals him.
You too have been called. Walk in a manner worthy of that calling. Embody and embrace lowliness and gentleness. Be patient with one another, longsuffering. Do not be outraged and self-righteous but bear with one another in love. Cover one another’s weakness. Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
I am called to give spiritual counsel to the flock. That counsel often includes practical advice. I have Biblical principles and the Bible’s insight into human nature and some experience, but I rarely have an exact word about what would be the wise course. Imagine a situation in which I am asked to provide pastoral care to a member who struggles with alcohol. He wants God’s help and the Church’s prayers because he knows alcohol is endangering his faith and hurting his family. His main purpose in coming to the pastor is for absolution. That is objective and certain. That is a promise that changes the hearts of men and enables sanctification. But then, in addition to the absolution, I might also give him advice. There could be the sort of situation where I say to a man: “Quit your bowling league. You have gotten drunk there almost every single week for years. Give it up to avoid temptation and stop wasting money. There are people there you love, to be sure, but they are a bad influence. Most of them are divorced and carousing. Love requires sacrifice. You don’t have to bowl.”
That exact advice isn’t in the Bible. But here are some passages, among a host of passages, that would back that up:
“(Do) not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.” (1 Corinthians 5:11, NKJV)
“Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NKJV)
“I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, Nor will I go in with hypocrites. I have hated the assembly of evildoers, And will not sit with the wicked.” (Psalm 26:4–5, NKJV)
“The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (Proverbs 12:26, NKJV)
I have some advice for you today regarding outrage. Social media doesn’t cause outrage any more than bowling causes drunkenness, but it is often a contributing factor and a bad influence on us. This isn’t doctrine. It is advice. But I am confident that if you follow it will improve your mental health and, more importantly, it will help you avoid temptations to outrage and worry.
1. Stop watching television or internet news. You’re not actually learning useful things in it. It doesn’t make you a more informed voter. In fact, it is hindering your ability to distinguish the significant from the trivial and it is pumping you full of the false morality of this age. It is not a sin to watch the news. But does the news do good things for you?
2. Get off of Facebook and Twitter and whatever else there is. These sites are toxic. The companies that run them do not have your best interest in mind. There are better, more human and healthier ways to connect with your family and your real friends. There are likely digital alternatives, but I think that is just changing whiskey for beer. I suggest you learn to be alone sometimes and that you seek out real companionship.
3. Finally, configure your leisure time to be healthy and away from screens. Put together a puzzle. Read a book. Go for a walk. Bake a loaf of bread. Knit a sweater. Read the Bible.
These strategies won’t purify your heart. They won’t remove all temptation from your life. The devil is clever and he will find you. He will tempt you with self-righteousness, with boasting in the Law. But why make it easy for him? These strategies won’t free you from the misbehavior of others either. But why set yourself up with false friends? Why not take control of your life and what you consume? Choose your friends wisely. Couch potato is too benign. We should call that activity Couch Abuser.
Being angry all the time, thinking that you are surrounded by fools, judging people by a bumper sticker they might not even have put on their car, isn’t Christian behavior. It is not walking in the calling with which you were called. It is not enjoying the Sabbath as a gift. It is not satisfying. We have received the greatest generosity and forgiveness the world has ever known. We will now become outraged at every weakness of our brothers?
Our Lord Jesus Christ came in lowliness and gentleness. He is patient and longsuffering despite our sins. He bears with us in love and joins us in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. He calls us out in the midst of Pharisees, away from cancel culture, from anger and self-righteousness and posing for likes.
So examine yourself and ask for forgiveness. Come to confession. Take steps to guard your heart and your family. Come to Holy Communion, to this Divinely instituted gathering wherein Christ bestows His crucified and risen Body and Blood upon us. Be exhorted and comforted by your brothers here and exhort and comfort them in return. Pray for one another.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.