A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on June 1, 2008 by Pastor Dale Raether God Desires to Show MercyMatthew 9:9-13Children, what’s your favorite TV show?  Do any of you watch Caillou?  Caillou is about a boy.  In each show he’s upset about something.  But then Caillou learns how to do something new, like tie his shoes, or he learns to better understand others, and so that by the end of the show, Caillou is always happy.   All of you, are you always happy?  Maybe not.  God wants us to love all people, but some people are hard to understand or hard to love, and it causes us to be unhappy when we don’t get along. Or, another cause of unhappiness is when there are things about God we don’t understand.  For example did you hear about all the tornados last week?  In one little town, Parkersville, Iowa, where the Hennings just moved from, 5 families in our sister congregation lost their homes.  We wonder, “Why them?”  Or, sometimes it’ll happen that a good person will die young; meanwhile an evil man, who keeps doing all kinds of horrible things, lives on and on.  Again, we wonder, “Why?”  Why does God allow that?  Is He unfair?  Or is it because He’s powerless to stop the evil? As surely as God lives, He’s both holy and all powerful, and He has a reason for everything.  Our text this morning helps us to understand His reasons.  Everything God does or allows centers around, not a lack of concern, not vengeance, but mercy.  God is all about mercy.  In fact God Desires to Show Mercy to All Sinners.  I. To “sick” sinners.  II. To proud sinners.    We read, “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.”  Matthew was a “sick” sinner, and he knew it.  As a tax collector he was surrounded by corruption and had become a part of it.  You see, in those days the Romans would allow rich people to bid on the right to collect taxes in a certain area.  They in turn would hire tax collectors like Matthew to do the actually collecting, except they didn’t have any set rates.  The collector could charge each person whatever he wanted.  That didn’t matter to the Romans, as long as their money kept coming in.  And it didn’t matter to the rich middleman as long as he recovered the cost of his bid and made a nice profit.  Neither would it matter to the tax collector, as long as he was getting rich.  But what if someone didn’t have enough money to pay all his taxes and eat?  Well, the Roman soldiers were always right there to make sure he’d made the right choice.  You can see why people then hated tax collectors.  Also, it wasn’t just the money they legally stole; it was what the tax collectors did with it.  Typically they’d use it to live high and get high, just like sometimes happens today.   Now, we don’t know how much bad stuff Matthew actually did, but we have a pretty good idea of how others treated him.  He was barred from going to church.  Wherever he went, no one would talk to him, just about him.  In fact the only people who’d be his friends were other tax collectors and drunkards looking for free money, and prostitutes. However, there was something that was even harder for Matthew to take than how people treated him.  It was his guilt.  There’s nothing worse than having this big emptiness inside and fearing that when you die, you’re going to go to hell.  Anyway Matthew had heard Jesus speak and seen His miracles.  From everything he had learned in church before they threw him out, Jesus was fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies.  Yet he felt there was no way Jesus would want anything to do with him – not after all the stuff he had done.   And now try to imagine Matthew’s utter shock, when Jesus walked over to him and said, “Matthew, I want you to be one of my closest friends.  Follow me!”  Well, it didn’t take Matthew long to figure out what to do.  He immediately quit his job – and it’s not that being a tax collector was wrong, but it was all the other stuff that went with it.  And so, Matthew left his sinful lifestyle, but he threw one more great big party.  Only this one wasn’t about wine, women, and song.  This one was about introducing the town drunks and prostitutes and other tax collectors to Jesus, so that their sin-sick souls could be healed just as his had been.   But how does Jesus heal sin-sick souls?  Well, He doesn’t give us a regimen of “you have to do this and you can’t do that and then maybe eventually you’ll get better.”  Rather, Jesus heals sin-sick souls completely, wholly and in the blink of an eye.  Here’s how.  He lived here surrounded by corruption yet never once let any of that corruption rub off on Him.  Then He allowed Himself to be treated like Matthew had been, only infinitely worse, because being despised by others is a consequence of sin – in this case our sin.  But all this Jesus suffered so that His innocence could pay what we owed.  However, not only did Jesus reconciled us to the Father, but through His Word He calls us to follow Him and to trust in Him; and through calling us, He makes us completely new people.  He makes us God’s children and heirs of heaven.  St. Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself – II Corinthians 5:17-18a.”   We talked about this at Bible Class Wednesday night.  We’re not just partly new.  We are totally new and holy.  We are saints, though until we’re in heaven we’ll still have the cancer of sin in us.  But that cancer is not who we are.  We are sons of daughters of the Most High, and so like Matthew let’s now fight our cancer by avoiding those things that feed it.  Also, like Matthew, let’s now use everything we are and have to love God and to help others, because that’s what healed sin-sick people do.   However, why isn’t God’s word able to heal everyone?  Why do some hear it, but then reject it?  Or, why do some seem to have all the right answers, and yet nothing ever changes?  Their pride gets in the way.  The good news is Jesus is just as merciful toward proud sinners as He is toward sick sinners.   We read, “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"  On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."  Jesus here is quoting from our Old Testament lesson, because the Pharisees were just like the people in Hosea’ day.   God had been allowing the Children of Israel to get hit with one calamity after another.  For example, there was this three year draught, in which there wasn’t even any dew in the morning, and it killed off everything.   Also, politically and economically things kept going from bad to worse, until there was no hope for the nation of Israel.  Now, it needs to be emphasized that God was allowing all this, because of His mercy.   God was using the consequences of their sins to knock some sense into them, so that perhaps they would stop being proud and realize how sick with sin they were.  Unfortunately they refused to wake up.  And sure, they started going to church every week, and they got real religious in keeping all the Old Testament ceremonial laws, but they had not changed.  Their hearts were just as sick with sin as ever.  God in love and mercy then said to them, “What am I going to do with you?”   He answered His Own question.  He said to the effect, “I’m going to send you my prophets and maybe you’ll finally listen.  But if not, I’m going to keep on trying and keep on loving you.” Now, eventually God will stop trying.  The Scripture warns, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked.”  Yet even when God sends judgment upon a person or upon a whole nation, His justice is mercy.  His desire is perhaps someone along the way will stop being proud and realize that he is a sick sinner like Matthew, so that Jesus can completely and totally heal him. Are you starting to understand the ways of God?  He is holy.  But He sent Jesus to be holy for us and to suffer the just punishment of sins for us.  Likewise, God is all powerful and nothing happens unless He allows it.  But He uses His almighty power to knock down our pride, which we, sinners, sometimes keep putting back up.  But now, let’s not do that anymore.  Rather, let’s let Jesus be our righteousness and our forgiveness.   Also, since Jesus is all about mercy, may we be all about mercy too!   For us this means giving full and free forgiveness 70 times 7, as He does.  It means telling the person who sinned against us whatever he needs to hear.  Sometimes it’s a word of rebuke and there’s even a separation, but that’s showing mercy, if that’s what the person needs.  At other times what’s needed is a word of comfort and encouragement that he/she is God’s child.  But what if we say, “I don’t know how to do those things”?  That’s okay.  But that’s why we keep studying His Word, so we can learn.  And that’s why we keep praying, so He can guide us.   I had started by talking about Caillou.  Kids love Caillou, because they can identify with a kid, who doesn’t know or understand lots of things, and yet he’s learning every day.  In fact, at the end of each the very last words of the Caillou song are “That’s me!”  For us too there may be lots of things about God we don’t understand yet.  Nevertheless, this much we now know.  God wants to show mercy to all sinners.  In the words of Caillou, “That’s me!”  And finally God wants healed sinners to show mercy.  And again may we all say to that, “That’s me!”  Amen.       

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