17th Sunday after Pentecost
 "So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.  If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.  But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Ezekiel 33:7-9 (ESV)
Reading the texts for this Sunday, I wanted to preach on all three. They are so rich. Mostly with law, but the Gospel is behind them all. This text speaks to me. It warns me and condemns me. It speaks to pastors and what we are to do. Warn the people when ever we hear a word from the mouth of God. Now I don’t hear voices in my head, and if I do I don’t mistake them for God. I’m not a prophet in that I hear directly from God. But God’s mouth still speaks. It speaks through the Bible. It tells us right from wrong, and it tells us of His Son, Jesus Christ, who died that we might live, Even me, Even when I fail to be a stalwart example, even when I might be blind to some of the law. But this does not then excuse me from God’s law, but Christ forgives me, as he forgives you. If I didn’t know that I was forgiven, if I didn’t know that Christ died for my sins, I would be afraid to look at the law. I would be tempted to make excuses for myself. I would be tempted to look the other way, and make excuses for you. Then we could all go on thinking that we were good people, who made a few bad choices. We could pretend with each other that we had not sinned, or at least were justified in doing so because of the situation. We wouldn’t start the Divine Service confessing that we are all poor miserable sinners who are by nature sinful and unclean. We wouldn’t cry out for mercy with the Kyrie, Lord have mercy upon us. No, we wouldn’t do that.
Rather we would start the service like a pep rally with some contemporary music with a good beat. We would swoon, and work ourselves into a little escape from reality, as we approach God with our conceited praise. Then we would have a sermon where I would work you all up to do good for the Lord, tell you how good you are, and how you could overcome your weaknesses, all they while ignoring the real problem. I would ask you to do the impossible, and accept Jesus in your heart, so that He could give you the little extra help you need to quit smoking, or get rid of your porn addiction, (which in this world of internet seems to be a particularly hard thing for men to avoid). Of course, you would probably still have the problem of lust. Men can and should avoid playboy, or unsavory internet sites. I have never met a man that has been able to squelch lust. I would rant and rave not only against drunkenness, but against drinking. No, I would have a sermon that would tell you to do more. I would lay a list of rules on you, tell you what movies not to go see. I would tell you, not encourage, but make it a law that you had to read your Bibles more, give ten percent to the church. I can’t do that sort of thing. I can’t it is not in me.
Oh, I know the law. I watch out for it. I try to warn you about it. This is a hard job for me. I know how guilty I am concerning the law, I don’t want to come off as a hypocrite. I am one, but that is another story. I like to cover that fact up. That is what hypocrites do. They paint other sins to be worse than the ones they are guilty of. So I’ve been drunk a time or two, that guy is sleeping with his girlfriend, he doesn’t pay child support. God says so what, your still guilty of drunkenness. Do any of you see yourselves here? Because I do.
I wish I could be more like Luther on this. Luther was known to have a beer or two, he was known to be drunk a time or two, or heavily buzzed. Luther knew how to enjoy life. In that respect I am like him, I think. I like to have a good time, to enjoy life. I like to hang out with friends, have a few beers. And like Luther I’ve seen myself go a bit to far. Jesus could have a good time too. Made the best wine, even for people who probably had a bit too much the way it was. I don’t think he ever took it too far though. He wasn’t a sinner like Me and Luther. But Luther could still preach the law, and wasn’t afraid of being a hypocrite. He knew he was a sinner, and was guilty of it too. He still preached it. He could hack a man to pieces with the law side of the double edged sword that is the word of God. I always have trouble with that. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. But the fact is we are all sinners, all hypocrites, all guilty under the law, and I need to preach that. I need to show you your sin. That is my job, as a watchman over Israel. That is part of the job of a pastor, the man called by you, Israel, to be your watchman. I need to tell you when you have gone to far. I need to tell you to stop. I need to tell you and your children that some things are unacceptable. It isn’t Christian to sit up at night objectifying naked women on a computer screen, go talk to your wife, or go get one, and Love her. It isn’t Christian to be drunkards. We need to repent of drunkenness, and if we can’t control it, we need to check into AA, or some other treatment program and stay away from it altogether. It isn’t Christian to be carrying on affairs. And I know, believe me I know, that there are plenty of other sins out there, some of which you are guilty of, not only in thought and word, but in deed. I know that temptation is strong, and our hearts are black with sin, even if we do avoid these things. But we might lead as decent an outwardly life as the pagans around us. It is a hard job, being Israel’s watchman. But that is what we pastors are called to do. It isn’t a job for every one. As Christians, we might all be priests, we might all offer sacrifice and prayer. We might all have equal standing in Christ before God. But we don’t all have the same responsibilities. We are not all pastors, shepherds, watchmen. That is a unique position. And anyone who takes that office seriously wonders why anyone would really want it. It is a lot of responsibility. We have to stand before God and answer to him, for our blindness. We have to answer to him for those we let take communion, and for those we turn away. I suspect us pastors sin on both sides of that coin. We are human, but we have that responsibility, and we have to do the best job we can as stewards of his mysteries. Believe me though, not everyone wants to take on that job. We are all priests, but we are not all pastors. I know I am guilty under the law, I know you are guilty. Furthermore, I know I have failed in many ways to deliver my soul, as a watchman.
But there is another task given to this watchman. A task given in today’s Gospel lesson. We are not here just to condemn, and preach the law. We aren’t here to make judgments on who is better than who. Who is more worthy, or less worthy. Guilty or not guilty. Jesus tells us not only to bind, but to loose. So the unrepentant we bind, we give them law. But to those who are repentant, to those who confess their sins, humble themselves like little children before God, to those we loose, those we forgive, even as we are forgiven in Christ. When the law has done its task. When we are show our sin, when our guilt is felt, then the watchman says take heart, your sins are forgiven. Do you see that Cross? Do you see Jesus hanging their, the blood pouring out his side, and dripping off his feet? That blood was shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins, that blood was poured over your head, as the door post over the houses of Israel with the pass over lamb, in baptism, now take and drink, for the forgiveness of your sins. Fear not the angel of death, for Christ has granted you life.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.