First Lesson: Joel 2: 23-32
Responsive Reading: Psalm 65
Second Lesson: 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18
Gospel Lesson: Luke 18: 9-14
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Last month, I was at a Vikings game versus the Oakland Raiders. The Vikings were up 31-7 with little time left in the game. Oakland sends out their kicker Daniel Carlson with the only goal to make Oakland’s loss just a little bit smaller. The stadium erupts with “boos,” as soon as Daniel Carlson takes the field.
Now Daniel Carlson hadn’t done anything criminal nor said anything against the fans. Daniel Carlson used to be the Vikings kicker until he had the worst game of his life against the Green Bay Packers. So the Vikings failed to win the game.
Now a relatively meaningless kick would serve as a reminder for fans to remind Daniel Carlson, how bad he messed up with the Vikings. Carlson proceeded to bounce his kick off the uprights, to the fans great cheers. The Vikings would end up winning the game 34-14. The tale of Daniel Carlson reminds us how we live in a world that often delights in the failures of others.
Now, as we hear the story of Daniel Carlson, let me ask you this? How many of you would like people from the worst parts of your past standing over you, reminding you of everything that you’ve done wrong for the rest of your life?”
As we reflect on Daniel Carlson and the following question, it leads us into Today’s Celebration of Reformation Sunday. Luther was like Daniel Carlson in many ways. Luther’s whole life was defined by hearing voices telling him everything he had done wrong.
You see, when Luther was young. His father dreamed of young Martin pursuing a lucrative career in the law. One night though, Martin, on a trip back to school, got caught in a thunderstorm. Luther cried out in a moment of desperation for his survival: “Help! Saint Anna, I will become a monk! Luther’s dad Hans thought this was a foolish move, but Martin could not break his vow.
Luther, as a monk, was as dedicated as any monk could be. He would fast for days on end. He would spend hours in prayer. He would seek to confess every individual sin that he committed. Luther would appear to have been the best Christian around. Luther had a problem, though; he kept feeling worst and worst about himself. The more committed that Luther got to his faith, the more unlikely it was that he believed that God could save him.
Luther heard every dark and spiritual force reminding him of everything he had done wrong in his life and then consigning him to the fires of hell. These voices within Luther’s life were even louder than 60,000 Vikings fans booing Daniel Carlson over his past mistakes.
What ends up happening to Martin Luther, thereby making us all Lutherans, we’re going to get back to him in just a little bit.
Today’s Gospel lesson comes to us from the 18th Chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Let me set the stage. Two men go up to the Temple to pray. One man was a Pharisee; the other man was a Tax Collector.
The Pharisee was a good man; he was generous; he was religious; he prayed nearly every day. The Pharisee was the type of man any father would want their daughter to date. The Pharisee had plenty of admirable qualities to be thankful for in this life, and the Pharisee let God know this by praying the following:
“God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”
Now another man comes to pray a tax collector. Now picture your daughter coming in home amid the Revolutionary War, announcing she’s dating Benedict Arnold. No parent in Jesus’ day would ever want thier daughter dating a Roman Tax Collector. If a parent had a choice between their daughter dating a guy with face tattoos, a Mohawk, and a massive nose ring currently unemployed or a tax collector. Mohawk man would be receiving an invitation to dinner. These tax collectors sold out their faith to the Romans. They helped collect money to pay for the Roman Army, courts, and the Roman Governor. The tax collector basically engaged in organized crime on behalf of the godless Romans. They were locals who had turned their backs on the people of their hometown.
So now it’s the tax collector’s turn to pray after the Pharisee. No one would point to the tax collector as anything other than an example of bad religion. As for the tax collector’s prayer, it’s direct and straightforward.
The tax collector is so ashamed that he is unable to lift his eyes in the direction of heaven. He struggled to get the words of his prayer out of his mouth. The Tax Collector finally mouths the words: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
A few weeks back, Sychar did adopt a highway. So Fred Mismash and I go down to the Split Rock wayside. I start wandering and collecting trash. What did I continually find alongside Highway 61, cigarette butts. So I had to bend down, again and again and again, picking up cigarette butt after cigarette butt. After about a mile of this, my back was hurting. The thought goes through my head, why can’t those who throw liquor bottles and cigarette butts out the window be more like me.” Why can’t they be in bed at a reasonable hour reading a book.
Such thinking is nothing new among the religious. When I was growing up, my Grandma would always let me know what exactly thought about those who had children outside marriage using one of her favorite bad words.
Every Viking fan can remember Daniel Carlson not winning a football game versus the Green Bay Packers.
Jesus instead has a different message for us within our Gospel lesson for Today: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The whole point of our lesson is other’s people sins are not your problem. Your next-door neighbor might be the one throwing cigarette butts alongside Highway 61; Our God will determine the level of grace and mercy that they will be given. If there are people in heaven that you don’t think should be there like your neighbor or the tax collector, then don’t make this your problem rather than Christ Jesus’ problem.
What happened to Martin Luther, once he nearly reached a breaking point on account of his spiritual despair. Luther kept studying the Christian scriptures trying to escape God’s judgment.
Luther comes across Romans 1:17: “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[a] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Luther came to realize that the Gospel was for this tax collector not just this Pharisee. Luther realized that the great Christian hope was that Jesus heard him call out on Easter Sunday: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
The only thing that Luther required to be brought into the arms of his savior was his own, unique sin in need of saving.
It was at this moment of encountering God’s forgiveness that the stadium of voices reminding Luther of everything that he had done wrong in his life had gone silent.
Luther, because of this Gospel revelation saw a whole new world open before his eyes. Luther came to see Baptism as the ultimate example of this salvation by God taking what is weak and vulnerable and claiming us as his own, lost and sinful thought we might be.
What we celebrate on this day of Reformation is not the Birth of the Lutheran Church, what we celebrate instead is God using Martin Luther’s broken life and pointing into the direction of the Cross of Christ.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”
Let me close this morning with a Modern-Day re-telling of this parable. Dan Crenshaw was a Navy Seal who served five deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, and South Korea. On his third deployment in Afghanistan, a bomb cost him his right eye. Crenshaw’s service was held in such high regard that he was elected to the U.S. Congress from the state of Texas. Dan Crenshaw is the definition of American hero.
Pete Davidson spent years struggling with drugs before eventually getting clean. Davidson’s claim to fame is his work as stand up comedian, where he makes fun of things that people hold in high regard, such as the church.
Last year, upon Lieutenant Crenshaw getting elected to Congress, Pete Davidson appeared on Saturday Night Live to make fun of Lieutenant Crenshaw’s eye patch by declaring that he “looks like an actor from x-rated movies.” Davidson told the most inappropriate of unfunny jokes concerning Lieutenant Crenshaw’s lost eye from the war.
Pete Davidson’s outburst took place the week of Veterans Day. People’s outrage at Pete Davidson made Vikings fans greetings of Daniel Carlson seem friendly.
Lieutenant Crenshaw, though had a remarkable reaction to Pete Davidson. Crenshaw declared “I wasn’t outraged when people were shooting at me; why should I start now.”
The next week Lieutenant Crenshaw went on Saturday Night Live to meet Pete Davidson. There was no dramatic confronation between the two very different men. Lieutenant Crenshaw used his moment in the spotlight to remember the loss of Pete Davidson’s father, a firefighter in New York, on September 11th. Common humanity, forgiveness, and grace were found on national television between the modern-day equivalent of the upstanding Pharisee Congressman Dan Crenshaw and the obnoxious Tax Collector comedian Pete Davidson.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” Which one are you like? Here’s what Martin Luther realized at the start of the Reformation. It doesn’t matter whom you think you’re like. What matters is that the Gospel is given to both Pharisee and tax collector alike. No matter how loud the voices are telling us otherwise. I’ll remember this the next time that I go to a Vikings game. Happy Reformation Day!! Amen
 “Martin Luther.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 9.Oct.2019. Web. Oct.9.2019.
 “Martin Luther.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
 Luke 18:9-14.
 Sylvester, Emily. “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector.” Sermon Writer. 2010. Web. Oct.9.2019.
 Luke 18:12.
 Sylvester, Emily. “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector.” Sermon Writer.
 Sylvester, Emily. “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector.” Sermon Writer.
 Luke 18:13.
 Luke 18:14.
 “Dan Crenshaw.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 8.Oct.2019. Web. Oct.9.2019.
 “Dan Crenshaw.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation
 “Pete Davidson.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 7.Oct.2019. Web. Oct.9.2019.
 Stier, Leon. “Where is the Kingdom of God? (part three of three).” Email Mediatations. 5.July.2019. Web. Oct.9.2019.
 Stier, Leon. “Where is the Kingdom of God? (part three of three).” Email Mediatations.
 Stier, Leon. “Where is the Kingdom of God? (part three of three).” Email Mediatations