St Luke 6.36-42 Trinity 4
St John's Ev LC, Victor, IA 2013.6.23
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In today’s Collect we prayed that the “course of this world” would be so “peaceably ordered by God’s governance” that His Church would “joyfully serve Him” – and here’s the phrase I'd like us to concentrate on this morning – “in all godly quietness.”
What is this “godly quietness” for which we ask? In brief, it is the peace of heart (the quiet and calm that can rule in our hearts) even in the midst of the most difficult and trying times. / As you'll hear in just a bit, this godly quietness is nothing less than the peace that passes understanding, which guards your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. In other words / one who has this godly quietness doesn’t fret and get all worked up, but instead entrusts him or herself completely into the hands of God. Godly quietness of heart is one of the fruits of faith, and Joseph (whom we heard about in the Old Testament Reading) is a great example of this.
Joseph – all those dreams from his youth, everyone bowing down to him, honoring him, which was not fulfilled until later in adulthood; not arrogance, but God had told him that’s how it would be. And what happened? / Betrayed by his brothers, sold as a slave, an exile who then is falsely accused and, because he would not compromise a godly morality and life, he was tossed into jail, and there he was promptly forgotten by those to whom he did nothing but good.
At many points along that journey, I wonder if he struggled to hold onto the promises that God had made so many years earlier. / Did God really mean them? Why then was He allowing such awful things to befall Joseph time and time again? But in true worship, which is “the exercises of faith struggling with despair,” [Tractatus 44] Joseph held to the promise, and in peace of heart, in godly quietness, he sought to serve in whatever new position he found himself.
“Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” Think of how Joseph experienced the truth of those words! Joseph humbled himself and in godly quietness cast his cares on the Lord, and look at what happened! That moment came when in a single day he went from being Pharaoh’s prisoner to being the Prime Minister of Egypt. And he went on serving, saving the lives of countless Egyptians, and yes, of his own family, who did indeed come and kneel before him as his servants, just as God promised.
But if godly quiet reigned in Joseph’s heart, it was fear that reigned in the hearts of his brothers who had so mistreated him. “What if he pays us back?” they wonder when they see that their father Jacob has died. “What if Joseph decides to get even now?” / How little they understood their brother’s heart! And so they went and pleaded with him for forgiveness one more time.
It is in response to his brothers' fear that Joseph spoke those astonishing words: “Do not fear. Am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” He spoke out of the godly quiet of his heart. He did not excuse their wickedness, but invited them to behold the miracle of God: that our Lord knows how to take the evil and sin we suffer at the hands of others, and even the things we do ourselves, / and in sheer grace, our gracious Lord turns it into blessing for us and also for others, even our little ones.
Joseph, of course, was a type of our Lord, manifesting and living out just a portion of the fullness of who Christ Jesus would be. For it is in Christ / that we come to fully know the extent of a heart that has perfect godly quietness. Jesus' trust in His Father was perfect and immovable, and so (as we heard from the Gospel reading) Christ urges us to be merciful just as Father is merciful. It was His trust in His Father’s final plan and vindication of Him that led Him to call to us: “Judge not and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you – more than you ask, desire or deserve.” With these words / Jesus is simply inviting you into His life, into the life that He lived. He’s reaching His life out to you, that it might be your life, too. A life where that godly quietness of heart (a quietness that trusts the Father’s plan) / also knows / that He is the master of turning bad to good, and making evil and hatred serve the designs of His gracious kingdom, a kingdom of holiness and love.
Joseph only prefigured this kingdom with his life, Jesus came to bring that kingdom in it's fullness: for our Lord also was betrayed by his brothers, sold as a slave for 30 pieces of silver, wrongfully and illegally arrested by the Sanhedrin, and then condemned to die, despite His innocence, like Joseph, but more than Joseph, for Joseph didn't plan that for himself, / but Jesus did, before the foundation of the world, in willing submission to the Father. And so when it came time to go through with it, He accepted all this in utter godly quietness of heart, saying “O Father, not my will, but thine be done.”
But then, just like with Joseph, a grand reversal took place. Through the very act of His betrayal, suffering, and death, our New Joseph, Jesus, was raised from death in an incorruptible and immortal body not to rule some measly piece of earthly real estate but the whole universe; and instead of hating us for what we did, He uses it to forgive us and love us, and He says to us, too: “Do not fear, I will provide for you and your little ones.”
Joseph gave his brothers grain. Jesus gives us the living bread of heaven, His own true body and blood – the body and blood that were on the cross for us, crying out for our forgiveness there for all the times that we have shamefully treated one another, betraying each other, hating each other and wishing each other ill. And His body and blood still cry out for our forgiveness. They speak into our hearts the unfathomable truth that despite our wretchedness and sin, we are the beloved of the Father in His Son and that His will for us is to share His life, a life that never ends, the life of forgiveness and mercy, in His Kingdom of grace and love.
That Holy Meal, to which He invites all of us, comes to us as the gift of godly quietness. It frees us to live in that forgiveness ourselves. And like our Lord, there's no need to avenge ourselves, looking out for ourselves. That is God’s job. Instead: the joy that Paul exhorts us to in the Epistle: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to what is honorable in the sight of all…. Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This is what we are asking for in Collect today: O Lord, grant us to serve You joyfully in godly quietness, to trust that our lives are governed by You and that all things are indeed working together to bring us blessing – especially when we are called to suffer for Your name.
Dearly beloved, with that prayer on our lips, and through the Holy Meal making it's way down to our hearts, we are utterly free in Jesus to love and bless, forgive and give to all who mistreat us, all who hate and seek our ruin. In Jesus, by the strength of His Spirit, we are set free to love them and to seek God’s richest blessing on their lives. Give us, O Lord, this godly quietness of heart to trust in You at all times and in all places, for You are merciful and You love Your whole creation, and we Your creatures glorify You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
**Much of the content of this sermon was borrowed from Rev William Weedon, LC-MS Director of Worship