I’m a little late in posting this sermon. My parents came into town and the days were just too nice to waste. I was also a little conflicted about this sermon.
The primary Lutheran dynamic is Law and Gospel. What that means is short is that the law convicts the person of their sin, and the Gospel proclaims what God has done about that problem through Jesus. It is held that the good news of the gospel must predominate, but that it should always come after the conviction of the law. The central topic of the sermon was the judgement. That topic seems to me to be simultaneously law and gospel. If you are ready, the judgment is the longed for revelation and pure gospel. If you are not, the very thought of judgment strikes fear or denial. I could practice the sermon and think – this is all law – not good. I could then practice it again and say – no, correct message from the text. Ultimately, the preacher does not control how the Word is heard. Things we intend as law, may be gospel. Things that we take as pure gospel, may put the fear of God into people. Some people are just hard ground and nothing is heard as far as we can tell. How the Word is heard, how it is used/applied is the Holy Spirit.
The second reason I was hesitant is that the interpretation of the three parables together was probably complicated and maybe too cute for comfort. As I spent the last three week immursed in the three parables, the more convinced I became that the order and presentation had meaning as a unit. As much as I like stages of the christian life presented, I’m not sure that my abilities or time were enough to really address in an authentic and meaningful way.
Many are called, but few are chosen. I’m not sure that there is a more frightening phrase in the entire Bible. The Judgment is so central to Matthew’s gospel, but also just so beyond the mental props that we normally use. As the collect of the day expressed, Lord, judge us not by our fruits, but out of your mercy.