September 9, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Christ Lutheran Church
September 10, 2023
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
1 In that hour the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Who, then, is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" 2 And calling a child to himself he placed him in the midst of them 3 and said, "Truly I say to you/p unless you turn around and become like children, you will in no wise enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 And so whoever humbles himself to be like this child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. 5 And whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. 6 But whoever scandalizes one of these little ones who believe in ME -- it would be better for him that a great millstone should be hung around his neck, and he be drowned in the depths of the sea.
7 Woe to the world for its enticements to sin! Indeed it is unavoidable that allurement comes. Nevertheless! Woe to the man! through whom the seduction comes. 8 And so if your hand or your foot should lead you into temptation cut it off, and dispose of it! You are better off entering into Life crippled or maimed than with two hands or two feet, be banished to the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin pluck it out and throw it away! Better you should enter into life one-eyed, than having both eyes be ejected into fiery Gehenna. 10 See to it then, that you do not so despise one of these little ones; for I am telling you now that their Angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven." (Mt. 18:1-10 DKV)
In today’s Collect we pray that God would enable us to “set our minds on the things that are right and by his mercy accomplish them …” – a tall order indeed!
In our New Man – Christ in us the hope of Glory – we pray this prayer like there is no tomorrow! But the devil, culture and flesh are always close at hand to lead us into temptation. To groom our pride rather than humility. To set our minds on “the things below and not the things above;” and so every morning when the baptized wake up it is a case of Game On! Which is why we pray “Let your holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me.”
Now today’s gospel has many moving parts but let us begin with humility which the Twelve negatively modeled for us in today’s gospel. Why would they ask, “who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” other than borne of sinful pride? Each hoping it might be him, repeating the sin of Adam and Woman. Remember what the Serpent said: “For God knows that when you eat of it you will be like him, knowing good from evil.” So promised the Father Of Lies, and so the very opposite happened. They died.
Now if the Twelve were thinking clearly – which is very hard to do outside of this holy convocation – they would have known the answer. That “the kingdom and the power and the glory belong to God alone!
But even if any one of them was bright enough to suss that out, he wanted to be THE ONE to sit at the Right Hand Of The Father. He wanted an equal share. But since the Fall of Adam that much sought-after glory is only accessible to though the crucified Lord of glory. And by hearing today’s gospel. There is no other way.
But let’s not over-think this. Let us put aside for a moment the fact that children can be often be little terrors – that is not the Lord’s point but rather the child’s beautiful innocence and helplessness is. For a young child his father and mother are God whom he loves with his whole heart, soul, mind and strength. He trusts them perfectly. He longs for their tender words and affection, and depends on them for everything. He does not think about going to work, getting the best parking spot or balancing the check book. He never worries when the cable goes out, or the sink won’t drain. Instead
he sleeps in heavenly peace
and he makes us all wish that we were children again.
Now what the Lord wants us to know is that if we want to be Great in the greatest Kingdom of all, then we must become like little children. Not like the world would have it. In culture’s religion adults are expected to act like children, and they never disappoint, do they? And children are expected to make life-altering decisions at age five.
Do you see how sin has ruined us? And that there is no stopping it except by the All Mighty Spirit of Christ poured out on us richly in baptism. (Titus 3:5).
Now as Lutherans we might conclude that there is a lot of Law in today’s reading, and very little Gospel. But warning people away from doom is an act of love in itself. And so Jesus warns of terrible retribution on those who pervert the children.
Hear this O woke public school teachers and school boards! Take the Lord’s advice now and fasten a millstone around your neck; make your way to the Mariana Trench which is 36,000 feet deep – deeper than Mr. Everest is tall – and throw yourself overboard! You would be better off to do that, than to continue scrambling innocent hearts with your curriculum egg-beaters. But there is a better solution yet.
Turn and become like a little child before your God. Relinquish your unnatural, irrational worldly ideas; and repent and believe the eternal gospel of peace.
Hear this O internet pedophiles! Pluck out your eye, cut off your hand and throw it far away, and you will be better off – says your Lord.
Hear this O parents who do not worship, do not bring your children for baptism, do not practice piety and holiness at home but instead assert, “they can make up their own minds when they get older.” Woe to you! You are dead while you live. (1 Tim. 5:6)
Hear this O clergy who will not speak God’s word of warning to those who walk in their own ways, and not God’s. Ezekiel tells us in today’s Old Testament reading that If you warn people and they do not listen their blood is on their own hands. But if you do not warn them, then their blood is on your hands, and both hearer and faux-preacher will be cast into fiery Gehenna forever.
And in a final dominical word of both Law and Gospel, do not think that your scandals will go un-noticed! Because every child of God (regardless of his age) has a Guardian Angel assigned to him, and there is no flow chart in this arrangement. Each Guardian Angel is commissioned directly by the Father; and each reports back to the Father in a face to face arrangement.
And so turn from the world’s wisdom and pray that God will pardon your wrongs, and reverse the damage you have done. He gave his One and Only Son to atone for your sins however much injury you may have done. And he who “ever brings good from ill” as the church sings in hymn #394, will cleanse you from all unrighteousness, and assign you, your very own Guardian Angel who will be with you, so that the Evil Foe can have no power over you.
He who is faithful is able and He will do it. Amen!