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As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him.


And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"


But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." (ESV)

Church Is for Sinners

Wednesday of Pentecost 24

6 November 2013

The church claims to be the community of sinners forgiven by God through the merits of Christ. Why then should we be surprised at the sinfulness of sinners, as all true Christians continually confess they are? The Lord Jesus has taught us to pray: "Forgive us our trespasses." Unfortunately, some Christians portray themselves as morally superior to others, which hardly squares with the Bible's continual call to repentance (Mt 3:2), nor with the confession of sins we hear on the lips of Paul (Rm 7:18-19), or the other great saints (Ps 32).


This "holier-than-thou" attitude gives the church a poor reputation because it is easy to see the falsity of the claim to moral superiority. Instead, the church must portray herself as the poor little flock of those dependent on the generous forgiveness of the Good Shepherd. That Shepherd is calling you to dwell in the house that bears His Name, that He might feed and pasture you. Yes, you are a sinner. Join the community forgiven by the Lover of sinners.


I am often embarrassed when people talk about Memorial Lutheran Church as my church. I have no desire for God's flock to bear my name. I certainly don't want billboards all over town with my less-than-pleasing face on them! The church should be known and identified by the mercy of Christ and His cross, through which poor sinners like me are forgiven. Could I fall from faith and bring embarrassment and offense to my Lord and my church? Certainly, but that is why I want the church to be known by the sinless Son of God, rather than her sinful pastors. The church must continue to welcome even the chief of sinners and sometimes even make those sinners their leaders, like the Apostle Paul. Remember that Paul says not that he "was" the foremost sinner, but "I am the foremost sinner" (1Ti 1:15). Paul cannot be accused of self-generated piety.


A man, thinking he was flattering me, asked, "How can you lead a church so full of hypocrites?" I quipped, "Why don't you join. You'll fit right in." This man, who had no respect for God, was willing to point out the sin of others. But it is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. Of course, the church is full of sinners! It couldn't be anything else. Jesus remains the physician for those who are sick. He has come "not to call the righteous, but sinners." The church must be and remain the hospital for those who are ever recovering and always dependent on the care of the physician of souls: Jesus. 


Martin Luther


"Christ did not come to judge and destroy, but to give Himself for the salvation of sinners. Therefore let no sinner lose hope. Rather let the one despair who does not want to be a sinner, as the self-righteous. The sinner has the opportunity to hope because 'Christ has come.' Like the devil, the law of Moses condemns. We do not need Christ to condemn us, nor was He sent to condemn. Yet we receive Him this way because we have neither read nor understood Scripture.


"'Of whom I am the foremost' (1Ti 1:15)Here there was an argument; that is: 'I consider myself the chief for the sake of humility.' He said this in all seriousness. 'I know of no greater sinner in the church.' David was a great one, but Paul perpetrated more than David, who neither persecuted doctrine nor misled. Let the text stand then. So Paul is saying: 'I comfort all sinners. I stand here to sustain you. None of you can compare himself with me.'"


Martin Luther, Lectures on 1 Timothy, 1.15 

Lord Jesus Christ, I will gladly go up to Your house where You dwell by Word and Baptism and Supper. Rescue me from the hypocrisy that accuses others of hypocrisy. Call me continually to repentance that I might abide with the community of sinners forgiven by Your generous and overflowing grace. Help me to call those who are living in darkness and in the shadow of death into Your forgiving light. Amen.


For the family of Diane Garner, who passed away on Sunday, that the Lord Jesus would be the friend to all who mourn


For all those working at institutions of higher learning, that the Author of all true wisdom would uphold them in their vocation as teachers


For Jackie Benton, that the Lord would grant her strength and a full recovery
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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