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Forgiveness | A QUESTION JESUS NEVER ASKED... "HOW MANY TIMES SHOULD I FORGIVE MY BROTHER?" | image tagged in mercy | made w/ Imgflip meme makerToday’s Gospel reading is the dramatic ending of chapter 18, Jesus’ Sermon on forgiveness. In the first portion of chapter 18, Jesus teaches us 24/7 urgent care for sinners, for the little ones, for the one lost sheep.  He taught us we can all be lost at one time or another. It is 24/7 forgiveness as there is no Sabbath day of rest from forgiveness.

We learned again of the Lord’s passion to search for the children and the little ones, that our Father in heaven does not want even one of his little ones to perish.  We learned that temptation is hard but worse is to be tempter and cause one of the little ones who believe in Jesus to stumble, It would be better if the tempter would be thrown in the depths of the oceans with a millstone around his neck. We learned again of the Lord, the Good Shepherd searching high and low for the one lost sheep of 100, in search of the one percent till he found it.  We learned again of the Lord’s joy, with all the heavenly host,  in the one being found.  We learned again of the Gospel discipline of talking with a brother who has sinned against you so the brother may be gained. One to one, if he listens you have gained your brother. If he does not, then bring 2 or 3 witnesses and if he listens you have gained your brother. If he does not listen, then tell it to the church and if he does not listen to the church, then the brother is be treated as a Gentile and tax collector: three strikes and you’re out!  But that is not necessarily the end of the story, as we see in the conclusion today of our Lord’s Sermon on Forgiveness.

Way back in Genesis 4: 23-24,  it is reported that Cain, the very one who murdered his brother Abel, and his grandson, five times great grandson, Lamech boasted to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

Lamech struts his stuff, his macho swagger, in front of his wives. He presents vengeance as a positive role model to be emulated.  Lamech killed a man for wounding him.  He boasts his vengeance infinitely exceeding Cain’s murdering of his brother, the first murder in history. Besides Matthew 18, this is the only time I know of when “70 times 7” is used and it is Lamech’s never ending revenge. Jesus may have evoked this with Peter when Peter asked how many times should I forgive my brother: seven times?  Peter may have thought he was being quite liberal since some of the rabbis taught 3 times.  Jesus ups the number to as many times the brother sins and hears again the Lord and his brother. So what happens when the 3 or 7 times is up?  He’ll deserve his comeuppance.  No says Jesus, not never ending revenge, but enduring and never ending forgiveness which poured out from God through God, The Father through His Son, true God and true man in His death and resurrection.

We have watched stories whose fictional characters talk about their desire to have God-like power.  What would you do if you were God?  The answer usually is the God-like power to crush our enemies, those who have wronged us.  I want my enemies to perish and God came to forgive His and the Bible is clear, while we were enemies, Christ died for us.  the Lord forgives them in their joyful repentance knowing we are lost and He has found us.   So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish (Matthew 18).  

When imagining God-like power, the last thing that comes to mind is to forgive as He has forgiven us.  Maybe the whole point of Genesis are these next to last verses in the first book of the Bible.  Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers some 20-30 years before.  It is .about family and family revenge is too familiar.  Police say the worse call is domestic disturbance.  In the last chapters of Genesis, his brothers come to Egypt looking for grain because of famine. Joseph, now Zaphenath-paneah, is next to Pharoah in power and authority.  The brothers do not recognize him…I could go on about Joseph.  The narrative of Joseph is worth a several re-reads.  IN today’s Old Testament reading, the brothers ask for Joseph’s forgiveness and they are like the servant in the Lord’s parable:  what debt those brothers held!  They sold their brother into slavery, instead of their first desire to kill him, lied to their father Jacob that Joseph had been killed.  And in the lesson for today, Joseph clearly, as next to Pharoah, has God-like powers:  he could destroy them in vengeance.  He asks a very good question to his brothers:  “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?”  Note he has to tell them not to fear because he won’t, he can’t, as a member of the covenant, wield his terrible power.  The answer is No, I am not in the place of God.  Yet, in another sense, Joseph is in the place of God, when he forgives his brothers.  Joseph’s tears are not the bitter tears of anger, but the longing joyful tears of forgiveness as Joseph was in the Lord’s forgiveness.

He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

The slave who was forgiven a debt he could never pay back just like Joseph’s brothers who for all those years were in the guilt of their sin. The servant, also translated as “slave”, given the amount of money he owed would take him  60,000,000 days to pay off the debt. Sold into slavery, this would insure imprisonment for at least a 1,000 years. Purgatory is a pious joke and lie that we can pay off the debt, pay off the Lord who forgives us our debts. It is so true when we confess, we have justly deserved temporal and eternal punishment. The servant in the Lord’s parable tried the art of the deal with his master by his feeble promise to pay him back. “It is important to note that the master in the parable initially treats the first servant better than he deserved and better than he asked to be treated.” (Gibbs).  So it goes but the grace of God for each of us.

The master had mercy on him and King pitied him and forgave him his debt.  The translation Forgive us our debts, states it well.  The king of his kingdom forgave him such a great debt, just like that out of his mercy.  This resonates in every Christian’s heart, and more when we know again of Christ Jesus’ amazing grace  and so it should for our brother who owes us, as we forgive our debtors. 

The forgiven slave, the freed slave sees his “fellowslave” (rare word in the Greek used I think only here and is one word), owes him 100 denarii, a goodly sum about several month’s wages. The ratio of the debt to the “hundred denarii” to the unforgiving servant is approximately 600,000 to one (Gibbs). The fellowslave asks, pleads for forgiveness on his knees to the first servant, but he does not forgive.  This parable is also called the parable of the wicked servant.  A wicked servant is one who does not forgive.  He throws his brother into prison.  The Lord’s parable today is one of the only ones that ends on a judgmental note. Not to forgive your brother from your heart is almost unforgiveable. Our disposition to forgiveness in Christ Jesus is nurtured by the Lord’s forgiveness of us, of praying for our enemies, of those who have wronged us and to pray the Lord’s prayer, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. How great my debt to Thee, how greater your love to me and help my brother to see.

The game show, “Family Feud” has two families face off to see if they can guess the answers that a studio audience of a hundred top answers to a question.  Like, Who is the greatest American president?

On one show a question was, Who is most likely in hell?  Of course, the top answer was…Hitler. 

Anyway, that question is just a variant of the perennial one who was the worst sinner that ever lived? Hitler is usually number one, Judas gets on top 10, so does Stalin, etc., etc.  I do have an answer that may surprise you:  the worse sinner who ever lived was Jesus Christ.  He became a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, an idolater and the like as He bore the sin of world in His sinless body. “He became sin” the Bible tells us. Jesus was tempted in every way that we are but is without sin, as God’s Word also tells us. He was absolutely pure yet bore our sins in Himself thus becoming, in a sense, the worse sinner who ever, ever lived. The debt of the servant was upon Jesus and  the debt of us all which would make the unforgiving servant’s debt pale in comparison.

John the Baptizer was incredulous that Jesus came to him to be baptized in a baptism of repentance.  John knew he needed Jesus to baptize him. John knew who he was!  No says, Jesus this is to fulfill all righteousness, the righteousness of God by which He justifies, makes right those who cannot in a million lifetimes self-justify (cf.Matthew 18:21-35).  

In response to the question, who is the worse sinner, no one ever says, Oh, yeah, that would be me.  I like the discussion of who is the worse sinner because it makes me feel good, I’m not so bad…not as bad as Adolph Hitler!  St. Paul jumped in with the right answer, I am the chief of sinners.  Paul knew that could not make himself right.  He knew that account of Jesus Christ, He made him right by grace received in faith.  Further note that when one discovers the  wrong by what was thought, said or did, there is no escaping, like deer caught in the headlights.  The overwhelming flood of feeling is I am the worse. It’s like the weight of the world is on you. “I can’t believe what I did”.  Believe it, says the Lord, and believe Me ever and always.  This is the beginning of contrition, sorrow over sin and believe My Son, My Christ.  He was circumcised when He did not need to be. He  was immersed into a baptism of repentance He did not need, baptized into a baptism of repentance He did not need so the need of forgiveness is fulfilled, all righteousness, so that you can repent and be saved, washed, as if all over again.

The wages of sin is death and Jesus did not receive the minimum wage, but all the wages, all our debt, once and for all.  The free gift is eternal life so we can live free in our Baptism ever turning toward Him, and ever listening to our brother when he says, forgive me, for the sake of the Beloved Son (cf. Matthew 3: 13-17), our brother Jesus the Christ, as His beloved children in our Baptism in the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 26, Romans 6: 1-11).

 

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Matthew 18:  Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Luke 23:  And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:  And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Hebrews 2:  For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again,

“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 

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Cyprian (A.D. ca. 200–258), was acclaimed bishop of the north African city in Carthage around 248.During the persecution of the Roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. He was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. During the persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258. (From the LCMS website)Regarding his martyrdom, from The Penguin Dictionary of Saints:  “When persecution began again in 258, under Emperor Valerian, St Cyprian was one of the first victims. There is an account of what happened compiled directly from contemporary documents. Cyprian was first examined by the proconsul, and on affirming his adherence to the one true God, and refusing to divulge the names of his priests, he was exiled to Curubis. When a new proconsul came into office, Cyprian was brought up for trial in Carthage. He again refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, and was sentenced to death. Accompanied by a tumultuous crowd, he was led to the field of Sextus; there he knelt in prayer. He gave a generous gift to the executioner, blindfolded himself, and his head was struck off.”

Reflection:  St. Cyprian lived before the Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 312 which made Christianity a legal religion of the Empire.  From the time of our Lord’s Ascension to that time the Church went through persecution from social ridicule to martyrdom.  In 250, under Emperor Decius, with the threat of death, many Christians denied the faith, gave-up fellow Christians to the authorities or when told to burn incense to Caesar bought letters called,  libelli, or certificates, that they had done so. Based upon 1 Timothy 2: 1-4, the Church prayed for Caesar, but did not pray to Caesar (see the 1st Commandment).  

When the persecution ended, many wanted to return to the Church. My speculation is those who denied the faith were regarded as traitors.   One party wanted them to be re-baptized or one Novatus said they committed apostasy and were not saved.  He denied absolution to the repentant.  Novatus’ heresy, Novationism, was also condemned in The Augsburg Confession because he denied absolution/forgiveness (1).   The Bishop of Rome , Pope Stephen I said that once baptized, still baptized and like Saul and Judas a Christian can be lost. The Church agreed Biblically that a time of penitence, that is, repentance would return one to the flock.  The Biblical understanding is absolution for the penitent restores one to the Church.   This crucial understanding of repentance and absolution is reflected in the true Reformation understanding: “Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, that we repeat and practice what we began before, but abandoned.”(The Large Catechism).

Two of the lessons we can learn from St. Cyprian are:

  1. Cyprian and all the martyrs remind us that faith in Jesus Christ matters. Even in the midst of persecution, Cyprian and the Church debated right doctrine and the resulting right practice. They did not soften doctrine in order to be accepted by society and culture or by those who denied Christ and a lot was at stake: their lives but more: true doctrine which is eternal life. There were those who denied Christ and so ‘saved’ themselves, but those who sell out doctrine and faith and true worship are not saving  the Church, and removing themselves from the Savior.  
  2. Cyprian and the Church took seriously  the right Biblical way of ministering to those who denied Christ and they sought the true way:  repentance.  Cyprian was beheaded for the faith, for true worship, for right doctrine and practice.  

The beheading of Cyprian has a relevance in the news these past years of Islamists beheading  Christians. We are so readily led to  water down doctrine and the faith to “reach out” to the world which fits the devil’s game plan.  We need the courage of a Cyprian and the love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit to minister in the Name of the Lord to our neighbors:

“…having received the Holy Spirit, we are living holy and spiritually; if we have raised our eyes from earth to heaven; if we have lifted our hearts, filled with God and Christ, to things above and divine, let us do nothing but what is worthy of God and Christ, even as the apostle arouses and exhorts us, saying: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” [Colossians 3:1-4]. Let us, then, who in Baptism have both died and been buried in respect to the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen again with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both think upon and do the things that are Christ’s.”  –Cyprian of Carthage

Remove the pow’r of sin from me/And cleanse all my impurity/That I may have the strength and will/ Temptations of the flesh to still.—Renew Me, 0 Eternal Light (LSB 704:2)

Prayer of the Day:

Almighty God, You gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, before the rulers of this world and courage to die for the faith he proclaimed. Give us strength always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

(1) From The Augsburg Confession: Article  XII, Of Repentance  (emphasis added):  Our churches teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of  the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost.

Also those who contend that some may attain to such  perfection in this life that they cannot sin.

The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.

They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own. 

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“The tense of the perfect (1) passive participle ἐσταυρωμένον  (“having been crucified”) should not be overlooked. Christ continues to live as the crucified one; in his risen and glorified state, he still bears the marks of his crucifixion (Jn 20: 24-29). The triumphant “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5) is at the same time “the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5: 6; 13:8).”

(Concordia Commentary: 1 Corinthians by the Reverend Dr. Gregory L. Lockwood; page 70)

(1)  Perfect Tense:  The basic thought of the perfect tense is that the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing on, in full effect. In other words, the progress of the action has reached its culmination and the finished results are now in existence. Unlike the English perfect, which indicates a completed past action, the Greek perfect tense indicates the continuation and present state of a completed past action.

For example, Galatians 2:20 should be translated “I am in a present state of having been crucified with Christ,” indicating that not only was I crucified with Christ in the past, but I am existing now in that present condition.
“…having been rooted and grounded in love,” Eph 3:17

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Appointed Scripture Readings: Numbers 21:4-9   Psalm 40:1-11   1 Corinthians 1:18-25   St. John 12:20-35

One of the earliest annual celebrations of the Church, Holy Cross Day traditionally commemorated the discovery of the original cross of Jesus on September 14, 320, in Jerusalem. The cross was found by Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. In conjunction with the dedication of a basilica at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the festival day was made official by order of Constantine in AD 335. A devout Christian,Helena had helped locate and authenticate many sites related to the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus throughout biblical lands. Holy Cross Day has remained popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity. Many Lutheran parishes have chosen to use “Holy Cross” as the name of their congregation. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

“Holy Cross Day has remained popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity.”  The popular understanding of the word “popular” is intimately connected with everything from TV shows to movie ‘stars’ to a favorite food.  Popularity means fame and desirability.    People want what you have.  The Holy Cross of Jesus, in that sense of the word “popular”, has never been terribly popular. The image below is the Palatine Graffito, maybe the earliest depiction of the crucifixion.

“Discovered in 1856, a well known graffito from the Palatine Hill in Rome, dated to the third century A.D., depicts a crucified figure with the head of an ass. Facing the crucified is a smaller, beardless man clad in a tunic, his left hand raised in supplication. A crudely lettered  inscription reads:…“Alexamenos worships (his) god.”” The drawing was discovered in one of the rooms of a building which served as a training school for imperial guards….(the) image was meant as a parody of the faith of a Christian convert by one of his fellow soldiers.  (“The Palatine Graffito: A Mimic Interpretation by L. L. Welborn, Fordham University, Macquarie University)

This is a reminder of the “foolishness” of the Cross and the preaching of Christ and Him crucified in the first centuries of the Church as the Apostle Paul attests in today’s Epistle Reading:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.

God die a sinner’s death?  No way. IN our wisdom, we just can wrap our heads around the crucified God and His love to bear our sin and be our Savior and so in many subtle ways the Holy Cross is derided:

  • the doctrine of the atonement is not preached and taught in many churches;  

  • mega-congregations do not have a cross in sight in their church buildings;

  • church growth taught not to mention the cross as it is not an uplifting sign.

  • our good works save us 

The Cross of our Savior has been mocked even more crudely than the Palatine Graffito.  In 1986,  an artist’s work entitled “Piss Christ” in which a crucifix is in a container of the artist’s urine.  This work won accolades.

When I have listened to popular evangelical preachers, it always seems that the crucifixion of our Lord is at best, some past event by which the Lord redeemed the world. It is but His death and resurrection is needed by us everyday. but seldom is Christ and Him crucified preached and taught, and administered in the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Altar as the Lord Emmanuel, God with us, for us today.  The Epistle readings says “we preach”:  present tense.  In St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy, 1:15, the Apostle wrote:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (Emphasis added)

The meaning of Holy Cross Day is the Lord Jesus is a present tense Savior for present tense sinners. As Luther Biblically taught the present tense Savior for us today in Part IV of Baptism in the Small Catechism:

What does such baptizing with water indicate?–Answer.It indicates that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?–Answer.  St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6We are buried with Christ by Baptism into deaththatlike as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Fathereven so we also should walk in newness of life.

Helena who found the cross in Jerusalem was the mother of the Emperor (Caesar) Constantine.  Constantine said of the Cross: Hic Signo Vinces, “By this Sign, you will conquer”.  Even more, by this sign, we are conquered and are more than conquerors through Him who loved us  (Romans 8: 37) and gave Himself up for us all.

The Apostle Paul knew that the preaching of Christ and Him crucified, the Word of the Cross, is folly to those who are perishing, who deny it. He also knew in Corinth that the preaching of  Christ and Him crucified created faith in so many.  So,  why deny it?  By His crucifixion and resurrection, we are changed and the Old Adam with the devil’s assistance, will do their damn worse to stop the Lord’s salvation.  So we rejoice as the Scripture proclaims:

 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1: 25)

Let us pray…

Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God,  now and forever.

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The televised images of 9/11 are etched on the memories of those who watched the events of that day.  One of the images was  firemen going into the twin towers to fight the fire and save those trapped and lost.

Every disaster has clips of those looking high and low for those in the rubble in hope of life or in the midst of the flood.

NYC firemen were killed in the service of their vocations.  This is  a sure testimony to faithfulness in serving our neighbors in a man’s vocation, to find and save even one who is  perishing. It is humbling.

Jesus taught and proclaimed the Kingdom a lot.  One time He said it is like  a shepherd who has 100 sheep and loses one, leaves the 99 upon the mountains in search of the 1 lost sheep. Against all odds.  A losing proposition. In the parable, we are not told the length of time: a hour, hours…into the dark night?  He finds the lost sheep!  He brings the lost sheep home upon the shoulders.

Jesus taught that a shepherd left the 99 sheep in search of the one lost sheep.   The math is simple. The shepherd goes out in search and rescue of the 1%, the little one who went astray.   Jesus goes out in search and rescue of the 1%. The 99 are already in the flock and they did not get into the flock by being the greatest!  The first are not the wealthiest in their bank accounts nor in their spirit.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs IS the Kingdom of heaven.”  We can soon realize that in the reign of God, His Kingdom, new math is at work.  It turns out that the 1% are actually 100% dependent and needy as the Lord tells us in His word.  The one sheep went astray has the 99 for company as we can all go astray.  As the Lord makes clear:

Isaiah 53:6:All   we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 

Romans 3: For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

He came to find His lost creatures, lambs for whom the Shepherd bled.  The Lord is so clear about finding the lost sheep: And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish (Matthew 18).   Jesus placed a child in the midst of the disciples saying the greatest is the least, as the first will be last and the last first.  He took lowest place:  God born of the virgin’s womb, and raised a child who heard that King Herod slaughtered the boy children to kill Him.  He went in the place of all killers, in thought, word and deed to redeem us all.  The Lord took the lowest place and now in the highest place He brings us ever into His reign by His Body and Blood.

So many times we think of the pictures of Jesus carrying lamb on His shoulders.  In the parable, it was not a lamb.  It was a full-grown sheep weighing a few hundred pounds. Like a firemen carrying a fully grown man out of burning building.  Rejoice! There is more rejoicing in heaven over one who repents than 99 who do not.

Jesus went into the burning building.  No chance of Him coming out of alive. He came to save those who were lost.  He is risen.  In the midst of the Twin Towers the cross above, from beams of the Word Trade Center, was found.  May He always find us.

The bravery of firemen should encourage us to search for the lost. They did not do so alone but with each other. We are not yet called to be martyrs.  Our risk might be social discomfort, i.e. shame.  But we are not ashamed:  for He died and rose for you and for me. “Oh, wondrous thought He found me when I sought Him not!”  In this crooked and lost generation, our vocation as His Church is not spiritual self-satisfaction but to be ready to bear the hurting home.  The Lord will.

Let us pray…

Lord Jesus, light of the world, You shine with the brightness of the sun in the darkness of our crooked and twisted generation.  Give us strength to shine as lights in the world as we live out our baptismal life by serving our neighbors with thanksgiving and joy as sacrificial offerings of mercy and love;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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