St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309

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Sunday: 8:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m.
Thursday: 6:30 p.m.
Friday: 1:30 p.m. (Shortened)





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Lord Have Mercy!


Luke 18:9-14

Holy Tuesday Confessional Service


St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church—Beaver Dam, WI


We see it all the time around us. It does not matter whether we watch sports, at our work in the corporate world, watch awards shows, or it even trickles down to the grade school level. People like to point to themselves. They want the spotlight to shine directly on them. They take every opportunity possible to tell everyone about their thoughts, accomplishments, and ideas for the future.


Sometimes it is done in jest. However, deep down it all boils down to one point, self-gratification. Our world teaches us that if we don’t exalt ourselves, no one will notice us. We will be trampled upon. No one cares about our feelings. So, people exalt themselves. They boast about all their accomplishments. They want all eyes on them.


Jesus speaks about this kind of attitude. However, he turns it upside down. Jesus says exactly the opposite of the way the world things. The humble will be exalted, and the exalted with the humbled. Jesus uses a parable to prove his point.


A group of people gathered around Jesus. Jesus saw into their hearts, and their actions told the very same story. They trusted in themselves for their own salvation. They looked upon their life, while looking down upon others, confident that God would forgive them simply for being them.


Jesus often had the accusation levied against him that he hung out with sinners. He would speak with tax collectors. He ate with the prostitutes. He healed the lame. Many of the Jews thought Jesus wasted his time with those people. The haughty thought themselves so much better than those “sinners”. Jesus used a parable to how that this was all a matter of the heart.


Two men came to the temple courts to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood in the middle of all the people. He looked around one final time just to make sure a little crowd gathered around him. When people looked, he raised his voice to the heavens. The Pharisee prayed about all his accomplishments. He fasted, he gave of his wealth. He was not like all the other people, especially the evil tax collector.


One phrase should not escape our attention in all of this. Jesus said, “The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself” (Luke 18:11). This Pharisee had no concern about his prayers to God. He prayed about himself. He wanted everyone there in the temple courts to look upon him and his works. He had no concern about God, but he only cared about himself.


Do we ever find ourselves with the same kind of attitude with this Pharisee? Sadly, we do the very same thing so many times in our life. We look down upon others. We think their sins are bigger than our sins. We compare ourselves to our neighbors. We don’t drink, swear, or live together outside of marriage. We also point to all of our accomplishments as justification to all our misdeeds.


This mindset only sweeps all our sins under the rug. We hope God will not find them. We barter with God by pointing to all our good deeds hoping somehow he will forget about all our bad deeds. We want to think that our definition of minor sins will not face God’s justice over bigger sins.


To God a sin is a sin. It doesn’t not matter whether it is a lie, stealing, coveting, gossiping, murdering, or whatever else. All sins make us guilty. We cannot bring any amount of money before God to pay for our sins. We cannot point to others who are worse than us. Boasting to God about all our deeds only leaves us still guilty.


We cannot trust in ourselves for anything. We must trust in God for our salvation. God tells us about the tax collector that did exactly that.


The attention went to the tax collector in Jesus’ parable. However, he seemed to escape all attention. He stood at a distance from everyone else. The tax collector could not even look to heaven. His guilt and shame over sin completely overwhelmed him. He beat his breast, and cried out for mercy from God.


No fanfare, no pointing to his works, no boasting about his work. The tax collector knew his guilt. He also knew where he could find relief. He trusted in God for forgiveness. He had nothing to bring to barter with God. Jesus had everything to bring. Jesus’ suffering and death would bring peace to him.


Jesus stated the point of the parable. The tax collector went away forgiven. The Pharisee was still in his sins. Neither was better than the other, but their hearts were in much different places. The Pharisee trusted in himself for forgiveness. The tax collector trusted in his Savior for forgiveness.


Confession is not easy. We do not want to admit the wrong we do. It is not so much that we do not know what we did was wrong. It is what follows. Deep down we know what our sins deserve. They deserve death. Sin means that we do not have a right relationship with God. It is hard to say we have messed up and need help.


We might go quickly through those words in our worship life. We do not think of them as we should. We want to get to the good part of forgiveness. In our personal life we might even think of sin as a big deal. However, we need to recognize our sin as part of confession before God.


We might not even be able to look at God. Our sins are so great. Our shame makes us feel dirty. We need to recognize all of this. We need to know that our sins are not a good thing. Our sins need to be paid for.


We cry for mercy from our Lord and Savior. Confession trusts in God for forgiveness. Our Lord does have mercy. He knows all our works count for nothing. Jesus’ work counts for everything. He will pay for all our sins. We come out refreshed.


Jesus lived a perfect life in order to take our life that messes up. Jesus went to the cross to suffer and die, so that we might be free. Jesus’ resurrection gives us the victory in his heartbroken world. Our Lord does have mercy upon us!


Our heads do not need to remain hung in shame. They can be lifted up to our Lord who has done it all. They rise in praise and thanksgiving to God for all the things that he has done for us. The Lord has done it all. The Lord is merciful to me!


They say confession is good for the soul. Confession is good. It shows the power and might for our salvation does not depend on us. It all goes to God who has done all things for us. He is our merciful Lord who lifts up the brokenhearted to stand before him with a pure heart! Amen.

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