Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 7/10/2022. The bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity4 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, click here.
It was not my intention to have a sermon illustration so on-the-nose, or, in this case, on-my-forehead, but, here we are.
On Thursday afternoon I was doing yardwork with my father-in-law, Mark, when I decided that a tree branch was probably dead, and I could just snap it off. I knew I was wrong when that tree branch snapped back.
There was a flash of light plus a flash pain, and in an instant, I was on the ground. My forehead was screaming, but there was another strange sensation. I knew something was there, i.e. in my head, because I could feel it; but I couldn’t see it.
The chunk of tree branch was so close, that it was not in my field of vision. I couldn’t know for sure what was lodged in my face until I looked in my car window.
This is how sin works. When it is your own, and when it is so very close to you, when it is, in fact, inside of you, you can’t see it very well. And if you’re blinded with pain, you can’t see anything too well.
Pain is not enough. I hit the ground in blinding pain, and that told me something was wrong. That is what your conscience does more and more as it is calibrated by God’s Word. Over time, through daily devotions, and faithful preaching and teaching, you see more and more clearly what sort of things hurt you, what logs are lodged into your face.
Just because you’ve been doing something for years doesn’t mean it’s okay. Just because other people don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it can’t hurt them. Just because you’re not bothered, does not mean everything is okay.
In the same way that I needed a mirror to see the tree sticking out of my head, you need to be informed that you have something in your eye.
There is something in your eye, and I cannot see it. Perhaps it is because of my own sin, and perhaps it is because it’s hiding safely on the other side of your eyeball. But it is there, and it needs to be removed.
Sermons on the parables run the risk of journeying into the land of high-rhetoric, but not sermons by pastors three days removed from a head trauma. In fact, this is all really simple.
You say each Sunday, in general, that you’ve sinned in thought, word, and deed; by what you’ve done and by what you’ve left undone. Hopefully, there were some things that came to mind when you said that. But there were a good deal of things that should have come to mind and didn’t.
What mirror can you hold up against your life to find out what needs surgery? Consider your life according to the Ten Commandments: “Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?” (SC, VI)
Repent. Repent, that the log may be removed from your eye. Repent, that you may be healed, and your sight restored. This can sometimes seem painful. To remove the timber from my head, they didn’t just grab it and let ‘er rip. They actually had to cut me open more. This is what happens in Individual Confession & Absolution: Spiritual triage.
There, surgery is performed – acutely, carefully, and specifically for you. There, logs in your eyes are treated with the care they deserve. You won’t be sent away with a handbook on accepting this new addition to your face. And you won’t find solace in the fact that lots of people are wearing logs in their eyes, and turning them into popular, expressive, statement pieces. Instead, you will be restored and made whole.
The logs in your eyes no longer belong to you, just as they don’t belong in you. They belong to Jesus. He has tied them together, and been crucified on them. That everyone would see, and everyone turn and be healed. For His sake, you are healed and your sight is restored.
Then, after the Absolution, I will give you your discharge papers. “Come soon to receive Christ’s Body and Blood, and being joined to Him, live toward the joy He would fulfill in you for Himself and others. Go, you are free.”
Of course you are free from your sin, and from Satan’s accusations; but there is more. You are also freed for something. You are freed to live a life where you see clearly, and help others to see clearly also.
With the log removed from your eye, you are called to serve your neighbor. In the case of that parable, it means by gently helping them get their logs out, too.
I wouldn’t have let just anyone come yank that wood out of my head. They needed to truly know the problem. They needed to know how it happened, and how much damage had been done. They needed to know me. That’s why in the ER they ask you so many questions.
You can’t help people remove logs or specs from a distance. You need to truly know the problem. You need to actually care how it happened. You need to care about the damage that has been done. You need to know them. You need to ask questions before you start giving answers. Even if the answer wouldn’t change for listening more or asking questions, how someone receives that answer will change.
It also helps for you to know what you’re talking about. You, as a Christian, ought to know plenty about God’s grace and mercy; not only from receiving it, but by studying it, meditating upon it, and rejoicing in it. That’s one more reason to be in Church and Bible Study every week – that you may be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.