2nd Last Sunday in the Church Year – A LSB #’s 790, 852, 689
Text – Matt. 25:34 & 41
Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world...” Then He will say to those on His left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil & his angels.”
ARE YOU TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN?
When my nephew was around 18 months old, my sister & her husband were struggling with the fact that he loved to throw his food on the floor. He’d learned the language of the teaching well, because when he threw the food he’d say, “Don’t throw food on floor again!” He just had not learned the point of the teaching.
While replying to their email, it occurred to me to ask if they’d sought the advice of their 3-year-old daughter. Maybe she would better understand what’s going through her brother’s mind. Well, they had already asked & this was her answer: “Tell him not to throw food on the floor, because maybe he doesn’t know.”
At the next meal, my niece told her bother not to throw food on the floor, & as all little brothers will do, he threw food on the floor. The father asked his daughter if she thought he understood, now that he’d been told. She replied, “Yes, he knows!”
The next day they asked her, what else could they try to get her brother to stop throwing food. She said, “Tell him not to throw food, because maybe he doesn’t know.” So much for child psychology, but there is a point here we should take note of: “Tell him, because maybe he doesn’t know.”
Even my 3-year-old niece recognized the value in teaching, & teaching your children not to throw food on the floor is useful. But in this day of smart phones & artificial intelligence, simply keeping the food on your plate is not going to get you by. It’s much more important that your children learn how to earn a living, & be responsible citizens. And even those ideals aren’t the ultimate goal. Our Heavenly Father did not create us for the sole purpose of earning a living. We weren’t placed here on earth only to slave away in a dog eat dog world of survival. If that’s your mindset, if you just hunker down & work for all you’re worth only to survive, what have you gained?
In the end, you’ll die like everyone else, &, as Ecclesiastes says, “I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he’ll be a wise man or a fool? Yet he’ll have control over all the work into which I’ve poured my effort & skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.” (2:18-19)
If what you’ve been taught is for & about nothing more than toiling under the sun, paying the mortgage, buying yourself the latest gadget, or traveling the world to see the sights, then you have failed to understand God’s love for you. Jesus said we are no longer slaves, but children of our Father in heaven. And as His children He provides us with everything we need.
Our sinful desires & expectations cause problems. As my nephew wanted to throw his food on the floor, we also want to live our lives our way, & we’re too proud to really listen to our Father. We think we have the answers, but it takes a humble heart in order to listen to God’s voice & follow His guidance. PAUSE
Now sin has destroyed the perfect life that God designed for us. Yet our Lord is more powerful than sin. Jesus has overcome our slavery to death & the devil. He’s conquered them on the cross. He endured that inhumane suffering in order that you might have life. We are not meant to be so preoccupied with work that we allow our spiritual life to die.
In this world we still suffer, we are still misunderstood, abused & taken advantage of, yet Jesus teaches that as long as we trust our Father in heaven we will be taken care of, loved & provided for. That’s a difficult lesson to learn – trusting our Lord for everything. And it’s just
as difficult to teach children that lesson. Our natural fears of being taken advantage of, or getting left behind in the quest for the things of life, cause us to ignore the suffering of others. We turn a cold shoulder to their needs because we’re too busy taking care of our own. We easily forget that God promises to care for us.
In today’s gospel lesson Jesus confronts our failures, or successes, in being helpful to our neighbors, in having mercy on others. Whether a man has been against Christ, or for Him, has been shown to God by a man’s deeds; deeds of mercy done, or left undone.
At the judgment of today’s reading God is revealing to all men the nature of our deeds, the fruit of our faith. Those, whose faith had been in their Savior will have produced deeds of mercy, even if they aren’t aware of them. And those deeds witness to God’s glory, not ours.
Those, whose faith was in their own efforts will have produced none, & those unmerciful ones will have committed themselves to the unmerciful enemy of God. Through their lack of mercy they have rejected the mercy of our Father, & will share in the doom of their master; the eternal fire prepared for God’s enemy. PAUSE
Since the baby boomers there’s been talk of a generation gap, but even if true, there’s one thing all generations have in common – sin & our need to have Christ’s forgiveness. It’s through the forgiveness of our sins that we are enabled to forgive & have mercy on others.
When we experience God’s love for us, we are empowered to share that same love with those who are in need of mercy. Consider the people who’ve sinned against you. They are in need of mercy. It might take the law to reveal to them that they have sinned, but the law has no power to heal them or change them. It only condemns.
It takes mercy; it takes God’s love to heal them of their sin. But forgiving someone that hurt us is difficult. It’s something that needs to be taught to your children. They will never learn that from the world. Children don’t naturally want to share. They have to be taught. The only time they really want things to be fair is when they’ve gotten the short end of the deal. They want to rule their world, & many a child that has not been taught to respect others ends up spoiled & merciless when considering the needs of anyone else.
Teaching forgiveness & mercy is something people can quickly learn the language of, even while they miss the point of the teaching. It’s easy enough to mouth the words, “You’re forgiven,” but much more difficult to actually live out that forgiveness.
You may know someone who says, “I forgive you,” even while they’re throwing the food, or your forgiveness, on the floor. They tell you you’re forgiven, yet they’ll never forget that you were wrong. They’ll hold you accountable whenever it suits their purposes.
As my niece might have said, “Tell them to have mercy, because maybe they don’t know.” Teach your children why they should have mercy. Tell them whom it is that gives the strength to have mercy. Tell them that it’s a battle against spiritual forces when they are given the opportunity to have mercy on another soul.
It’s not only our sinful flesh we’re fighting against, but the forces of darkness & evil, spiritual forces much stronger than we. We must have God’s help in order to be merciful.
In our prayers of the church, I conclude petitions with, “Lord, in Your mercy,” & you respond, “Hear our prayer.” God had mercy on us 1st. He loved us 1st, & out of our knowledge of His loving us 1st, Christians respond in love. In our prayers then we request things of our Father’s mercy. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We love Him, because He 1st loved us. That’s a doctrine we teach, but these days, doctrine is viewed as a bad thing. That’s because people have not been taught how doctrine plays itself out in our lives. It is a doctrine that we love God, because He first loved us. When does that doctrine play itself out? On any occasion where you are given the opportunity to be merciful. Do we take advantage of those opportunities or turn our back on them out of selfishness & lack of mercy?
Teaching our children this lesson is more important than teaching them to read or write. It is more important than teaching them to drive a car, or surf the web. It is more important than teaching them how to shoot free throws or shoot a buck during deer season. Are you teaching your children? Are you telling them, because they might not know? PAUSE
Even if we are merciful, the devil will tempt us to meter out our mercy. Like my nephew was given a little food at a time so he could only throw a little, we often are merciful only to a certain degree. If we see people abusing our goodness then we stop or limit it.
God isn’t like that. His mercy knows no bounds. Even if we use it too much, He keeps on giving, & giving, even unto death. We are not to judge when we’ve had too much mercy on someone. Even when we use the Law, it is to be done in mercy. We have to help someone see that they are sick before any remedy can be effective.
God doesn’t meter out our forgiveness. He gives generously & immeasurably. You & I, we abuse it & throw it all around the floor by sinning again & again, but God keeps on giving, keeps on forgiving. We should daily thank our Lord for that.
For whenever we fail to feed the hungry, God still feeds us. When we fail to invite strangers, Jesus invites us. When we need clothes, God provides them. He looks after us when ill, & He visits us when in prison. It is Jesus who rescues us from the coming wrath by completing all the works of mercy for us, & in spite of us.
It is based upon His works & merits & mercy that our Lord Jesus Christ says: “…Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34 ESV) God’s work of blessing: begun in His creation, continued throughout history, active in the worship life of His people, comes to its climax in those words: “Come, you who are blessed.” Amen.
Gracious Savior, gentle Shepherd, children all are dear to You; may Your loving arms enfold them in your care their whole life through; fondly tend & safely keep them in Your mercy strong & true. Tender Shepherd, never leave them, never let them go astray; by Your warning love directed, may they walk the narrow way! Thus direct them, thus defend them lest they fall an easy prey. By Your holy Word instruct them; fill their minds with heavenly light; by Your powerful grace sustain them always to approve what’s right; let them know You yoke is easy, let them prove Your burden light. LW 475:1-2, 4.
O God of mercy, God of light, in love & pity infinite, teach us, as ever in your sight, to live our lives in Thee. Teach us the lesson Jesus taught: To feel for those His blood has bought, that every deed & word & thought, may work a work for Thee. Amen. LSB 852:1, 3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet