Trinity 11, 2019
The Epistle – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
The Gospel – St. Luke 18:9-14
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
As the Prayer for today states, God declares His almighty power chiefly, primarily, mainly by showing mercy and pity.
God is Almighty. This means there is no one or nothing that is mightier than He. He has all power. Nothing comes close. Nothing matches Him.
This should go without saying.
He has many other attributes…all knowing, all loving, gracious, kind…etc.
But the collect boldly states that God shows His power primarily or chiefly in showing mercy and pity.
But if we conclude that God is Almighty and nothing can come close to Him in power, majesty, strength….. then if He is to interact with His creation, He must in some way condescend to us on a lower level.
He never gives up His Almighty power and nature.
But in order to deal with us, who are so much lower than He, He must in certain ways, veil His majestic essence.
We see this primarily in the person of Jesus Christ. He came, veiled in human flesh not just so that He could walk amongst His creation, but to keep us from being consumed by being in the presence of His true and full divine power. Nature.
We are in essence shielded by the flesh of Christ, from being consumed.
We see this in the Old Testament. Concept.
“Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’  And [God] said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.  But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.’
So, He is unable to be viewed by human eyes.
 And the LORD said, ‘Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock,  and while my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.  Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.’” (ESV)
Very interesting anthropomorphic terms here. God says, “there is a place by me.” So He speaks to Moses in human terms and locational geographical terms.
God says, “I will cover you with my hand as I pass by” God has no hands or feet. He is not human. He is spirit.
God is all present, so “passing by” is sort of hard to understand.
Yet He is intending to convey to Moses that He will in some way guard Moses, preserve Moses so that he will not be exposed to the full, direct intensity of God’s nature.
Then God says, “I will take my hand away and you will see my back.”
So, God, being spirit has no front or back as we think of it. So He is telling Moses that He will allow him to see just a little bit of Him….probably just enough to convince Moses of God’s glory and how much God must be merciful and pitiful toward Moses in order to show him even a little of who He is… and preserver him alive.
No man may gaze upon God and live.
But we have seen that those who lived at the time of Christ, saw God and lived. They were just preserved from seeing Him in all of His glory.
So, it is a merciful and pitiful thing for God to act this way.
He is preserving us from seeing what we are unable to see in our limited, finite human nature.
When the greater interacts with the lesser, it is automatically merciful and pitiful.
This pitiful is not as we sometimes use it to mean sorry, sad, worthless and weak.
Pitiful here is showing pity to someone. In this case God is showing pity toward us. We even have synonyms like compassion and even commiserate.
There is a great condescension on the part of God as He moves toward us. He pitied us so He saved us.
He showed mercy by saving us.
This says a lot about our own nature as well.
If we are in need of mercy and pity from God, it means that we lack something and need assistance. We need mercy. We need someone or something to come to our aid.
We recite the 10 commandments each month and our reply to each command is “Lord have mercy upon us and incline our hearts to keep this law.”
Have mercy. Pity us enough to incline our hearts toward something they are not inclined toward and cannot incline themselves toward.
We need God to be merciful to us, to come to us, to give us grace, so that we would be inclined toward obedience.
The three and even 9-fold Kyrie is said each Sunday. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
Right off the bat during the Prayer for the whole state of Christ’s Church,
“We humbly beseech thee most mercifully to accept our alms, oblations and prayers.
Show pity by comforting and succoring all those who in this transitory life and in any kind of need.
“Have mercy upon us.
Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father” is our confession.
The absolution reminding us immediately, “Almighty God, our heavenly Father who of His great mercy has promised to us forgiveness of our sins…to all those who truly repent and believe in Him.
We see God’s mercy and pity laid out for us in today’s passages from Scripture.
First, Paul tells us today in this passage, the ways in which God was merciful and pitiful toward him.
He speaks about what he received from credible sources … most likely Apostles of Jesus…
These are things of first importance.
1. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.
2. He was buried.
3. He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
4. He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
5. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one-time. Some are even still alive if you want to ask them about it. A few have died.
6. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
7. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me….Paul… The least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
So, Paul is first convinced and recites this almost as if it were a creed. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared to people.
But here is what Paul sees that we might miss. He knows there in that last point that he is quite unworthy to be a follower of Christ and to be a recipient of His grace and salvation.
He went around in ignorance and hatred, rounding up Christians, arresting them and imprisoning them.
He persecuted the Church of God.
So, he says, “lastly, Christ appeared to me, in person…as the least of the Apostles. A man who is not worthy at all to be called an Apostle. …is there redemption??
And what did He do to Paul? He, in mercy, appeared to Paul on the road. He caused Paul to fall to the ground and He asked him, “Why are you persecuting me?”
Paul sees this great grace that is now in his favor. He looks back on that day of the appearance of Christ.
He looks back on that day when Christ had pity on Paul, despite being Christ’s enemy. He notes how Christ turned his heart to serve the living God, rather than fight against Him.
As we all know, he became a great evangelist and Church planter.
And he says at the end of the passage today, this, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.  Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” (ESV)
By God’s grace Paul is who he is. He is pulled from certain damnation into the glorious light of life in service to Christ.
He knew this so well, it impacted everything he did from that day forward.
He says it was God’s grace that made me this way. I did not come to my senses on my own. I was not convinced by good arguments.
I did not wake up one day and realize I was doing something wrong in opposing God. No, it was God who moved on me.
He appeared to me. Asked me rhetorically “why are you persecuting me?” and turned him.
And further, he says, this grace that God showed in turning me was not in vain.
He did not waste time with God’s gracious gift of new birth. He …at least once he recovered his sight and did some time out in Arabia and then returned to Damascus.
It was three years later that he went up to Jerusalem to meet with Peter the Apostle.
He says that he then “…went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.  And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.
 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith, he once tried to destroy.”  And they glorified God because of me. (ESV)
He even states that he worked harder than any of the other disciples of Jesus. He labored and labored for the church.
But then he makes sure to add, “But it was not me.
It was not I who labored, but God who labored through me. He did the work. He is still doing the work through me.”
Paul is maybe an extreme example to some. Not many if any have labored as he did to plant churches, evangelize people, preach the Gospel, stand before great political leaders…never mind the long list of difficulties, obstacles and hardships he underwent.
But…we have seen the evidence here of the mercy and pity of God as we contemplated St. Paul today….
but do we see the mercy God has shown to each of us?
Are we seeing the great and unearned gift of eternal life that has been secured for us in the death of Christ?
Are we daily talking to Him in prayer and thanksgiving for all that He graciously gives us?
He stoops down to our level. Wherever we are, right now, God is here and He is merciful. And He has pity on us whom He loves.
He did not give Moses what he wanted. Rather, God said, “I will make my goodness pass before you. I will proclaim my name before you. The LORD.”
That is what God did for Moses. ..and what He does for us. His goodness and mercy and pity all pass before us each day. Are we seeing it?
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.