Trinity 15 Sermon, 2017
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he’ll hate the one and love the other, or he’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Mt. 6:24).
This makes sense to us. And if we think about it, it makes sense because there are only two masters.
One is tolerant and understanding. He makes no demand other than that you try. He desires your happiness, supports you at every moment, and wants you to get what you deserve.
And the other master is Jesus.
The first master wants you to be happy and he’ll tell you—do what it takes to be happy.
Are you frustrated by your family?
Take some time for yourself. Extend that vacation. Read that book or watch TV for another hour. Just take a break. Focus on you.
After all, you deserve it. So says this master.
Are you burdened by your finances?
Get a second job. Work harder. Find a free daycare for your kids so mom can work, too. Make yourself so busy that you can’t go to church. But at least you’ll be happy and have all the things you desire.
The master who seeks your happiness is satan himself. He doesn’t mind if you try to serve him and the other Master, because he only needs part of you to eventually have all of you.
All it takes is a lazy habit and ignoring your kids just a little bit each day to let the TV and our corrupt culture raise them.
All it takes is one weekend of pillow worshipping to realize that it is nice to stay home on the weekends instead of burdening yourself with less than one hour a week at church.
Satan wants you to decide how to be happy.
He wants you to think you know what happiness is.
He happily encourages you to indulge your own whims, because he knows that every personal whim you fulfill for yourself at the expense of others is another step toward pride and the self-centeredness that merits hell.
You cannot serve two masters, because you’ll hate the one and love the other, or serve the one and despise the other. So, repent and hold fast to this other Master, Jesus the Christ.
It’s true: Unlike satan, Jesus is neither tolerant nor understanding.
Jesus says you cannot serve him and satan. You cannot serve God and… Jesus says, “Because you are lukewarm…I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16).
Where satan says, “Do what feels right,” Jesus says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Ex. 20:8).
Where satan says, “Take care of number one, you deserve it,” Jesus says, “Deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me” (cf. Mt. 16:24).
Where satan says “That doesn’t effect me. Live and let live,” Jesus says, “If you live according to the flesh you will die” (cf. Rm. 8:13).
How could Jesus be so harsh and intolerant, so devoid of imagination and understanding?
The simple truth is, Jesus “[knows] all people and [needs] no one to bear witness about man, for he himself [knows] what [is] in man” (cf. Jn. 2:24).
Jesus knows you struggle against sin. He knows you struggle between what God demands and what our flesh desires.
He knows that even the birds of the air show more sense: they don’t worry.
Jesus knows that you’re frail and weak: a sinner like the rest of humanity who all too often chooses to serve self, which is serving that other master, satan.
But Jesus shows a kind harshness, a loving intolerance. He knows all, and He desires your salvation.
Jesus says, “You cannot serve two masters,” yet, we try to do just that. Jesus knows Ezekiel chapter eighteen, where it says that the soul that sins shall die.
And Jesus knows you’ve already sinned.
In a manner of speaking, that’s that.
No man, woman, or child living can meet the standard of perfection set by the Law of God.
But thanks be to our merciful God, there’s more to the story: the miraculous mercy of the Intolerant God.
This is something satan lacks completely, something he understands not a word of. Mercy is unfair, and satan is, above all, fair.
Satan, our old, evil master, wants you to get only what you really do deserve. He wants you to suffer the consequence of your sins and join him for an eternity of guilt and separation from God.
Satan is tolerant of you, because he wants you to become just like him.
But Jesus is intolerant of you, because He wants you to become just like Him.
Jesus is intolerant of sin. He hates it. He wants it dead and buried. Death is the wage of sin (cf. Rm. 6:23).
But to this intolerance of sin, Jesus adds something alien: He adds His own mercy, His love that transcends what’s fair and does what’s kind.
Jesus says the sinner must die: so Jesus becomes the sinner and dies.
Jesus, who knew no sin, who’s perfect and holy, who’s God Himself in human flesh—Jesus was made to be your sin. The Lord of Glory was crucified so you would becomes His righteousness.
It’s a small thing for a man to die, and God is not impressed.
If we were to put all the sins of the world on one side of the scale and one man’s death on the other, there’s no doubt that the sins would outweigh it.
But for God himself in human flesh to hang on the scale and die, that’s beyond comprehension.
This is one of my favorite passages from the Lutheran Confessions. It’s a quotation from Martin Luther:
He writes: “We Christians should know that if God is not in the scale to give it weight, we, on our side, sink to the ground. I mean it this way: if it cannot be said that God died for us, but only a man, we are lost; but if God’s death and a dead God lie in the balance, His side goes down and ours goes up like a light and empty scale. Yet He can also readily go up again, or leap out of the scale! But He could not sit on the scale unless He become a man like us, so that it could be called God’s dying, God’s martyrdom, God’s blood, and God’s death. For God in His own nature cannot die; but now that God and man are united in one person, it is called God’s death when the man dies who is one substance or one person with God” (SD VIII.44).
That’s our master.
That’s a mercy that satan can never prevail against.
It’s love beyond knowing. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rm. 5:8).
God’s death on the cross changes the game. Sin is overturned. Forgiveness, earned. And here, today, it’s given.
You cannot serve two masters.
You’ll never be very good in this life at serving even one of them.
So, the true Master, our Lord and Christ, will serve you.
That’s what Jesus said: “I have not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as your ransom” (cf. Mt. 20:28).
He serves you by laying down His life for you and by taking it up again for life everlasting.
Jesus serves you, He gives you the salvation His death earned, by washing you clean in Holy Baptism.
He serves you, He gives you the salvation His death has earned, by pouring His own sin-quenching blood down your holiness-parched throat.
Your God and Lord, Christ, loves you, serves you, and forgives you.
He is your master.
Serve Him with your time.
Have you ever done the math to figure out how much time you spend at church compared to other things?
If you go to church every week, that’s fifty-two hours each year. Add in extra services for Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter—and let’s say you never miss church for anything—that may come to around seventy hours—and I’m rounding up.
That’s seventy hours per year—never missing a service.
There are 8,760 hours in a year, and if you never miss church, you only spend 0.8% of your time there.
Less than one percent.
If you watch tv for half an hour a day—that’s 2% of your year.
God didn’t make church attendance difficult—He only made it slightly inconvenient.
And who do you serve with your treasure?
Where is your heart?
Did you buy a Powerball ticket when the jackpot was recently up to eight gazillion dollars?
Did you daydream about what it would be like to have that much money?
What do you do with your money?
How do you use your wealth?
Whom do you serve?
There really are only two masters.
Serve the one who became your brother, lived and died for you, and forgives your sins.
He has come to love and serve you—that you would go and love and serve others.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!