4th Sunday after Trinity (Presentation of the Augsburg Confession)
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 6:36-42
June 28, 2015
“God’s Mercy Reflected in His Children”
God is merciful. Thank God.
He is just and righteous. He is a holy God. He is a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him. (Exodus 20:5-6)
But He is also merciful. The words of our Lord Jesus from today’s Gospel reading tell us, Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.
One dictionary defines mercy as “Compassion or forbearance shown to one (such as an adversary or offender) having no claim to kindness.”
That’s what God is and does. He shows compassion toward His enemies, even though they have no claim to kindness. He forbears; He holds back His wrath and judgment so that people may repent and turn to Him. He gives life and provides food and clothing, everything necessary for life, even to those who defy Him to His face. He has mercy on them.
God is merciful. But our society is not asking for mercy. It is taunting God by calling homosexual unions “marriage.” It flaunts this rejection of God as a great advance in morality. The White House makes itself the rainbow house, dying itself in the colors of the homosexual flag. How could our country proclaim more clearly that it does not believe in the God who speaks in Scripture? It has made an idol which it claims is the God of our fathers.
Our society has built a golden idol. I’m not sure what its name is, but one of its faces is same-sex marriage. And just like the golden image Nebuchadnezzar built in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s day, you will be expected to bow down when you hear the harp, bagpipe, flute and every kind of music. Though voices talk a lot about tolerance, there is no tolerance for those who don’t want to bow down to this image. Do you remember the bakers who didn’t want to make a cake for a gay “wedding?” Out of business. Don’t expect mercy from the world. Our society shows no mercy to millions of its infants in the womb who are slaughtered legally every year. If it has no mercy on helpless babies in the name of “freedom”, why would it have mercy on Christians who stand up and say, “This is wrong”?
There’s a reason why we can’t expect mercy from the world. God is merciful, but his enemy, the devil, is merciless. He is like a roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter). And Jesus told the people in his day who did not believe in Him that they were children of the devil. “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God…Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:42-44) And what Jesus taught was repeated by the apostles. Human beings are by nature children of the devil and under the power of the evil one.
Since human beings are under the power of the devil, who is merciless, by nature they don’t understand mercy. They don’t want to receive it and they won’t give it. They are completely depraved and dead to God. And this includes us by nature as well.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32
Yet even though this is the natural state of human beings, God has mercy. He does not reckon up our sins, but instead freely deals with the world in His grace. He continues to provide us with life and everything necessary to support it. He sustains body and soul and provides food and clothing even to those who are estranged from Him and don’t want to know Him.
But this is only the beginning of His mercy. Above all this He shows us His greatest mercy by inviting us, who have sinned against Him, to nevertheless call Him “Father” and be adopted as His children. Instead of condemning us to hell in righteous anger at our sins, He provided for our deliverance from sin. He gave His only-begotten Son to join us in flesh and blood and be our ransom and Redeemer from sin. He set apart His only-begotten Son to have our sins placed on His head and to die under God’s judgment in our place. God gave His only Son to take our place under the curse and punishment that was due us. By His agony on the cross Jesus took away our sin and made it so that all who believe in Him are adopted as children of God. That was mercy. That was God’s indescribably mercy. It reconciled us to God, made us sinless and without reproach in His sight, made us God’s blessed children and heirs. Such is the mercy of God.
In today’s Gospel our Lord Jesus tells us what kind of life must follow in those who have received God’s mercy. We must also be merciful like our Father, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1) We must be merciful because it is only fitting that those who owe everything to God’s mercy should be merciful. We must also be merciful because that mercy shows that we have been reborn as children of our merciful Father in heaven, that we are no longer children of the unmerciful devil. We must be merciful because our Father wants the world to see His mercy pictured in the lives of His children.
Christians are no longer children of the devil. Christians have been born again as children of God by the Word of God. That word came to us in Baptism and regenerated us, and it comes to us in the preaching of God’s Word, converting those who have fallen and sustaining those who believe. It is the word of God’s mercy in Christ. Through it we receive God’s mercy, that He receives us for the sake of Jesus’ death on the cross and does not count our sins to us.
And Jesus commands that those who have received mercy from God to show mercy. This is fitting for us as children of the merciful Father in heaven. The world does not know mercy. We proclaim God’s mercy. And here Jesus commands us not merely to proclaim it, but also to preach it with our lives. 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…In a world that is without mercy, Christians are to refrain from judging and condemning our neighbors, to forgive them, and to freely give to them.
When enemies judge you and try to destroy your life, you are not supposed to repay them in kind. Even though they judge and condemn you, you refrain from judging and condemning them. You pray for them and seek their well-being in this life and the life to come.
It’s important to clarify that when Jesus says, “Judge not” He is not saying that we should not recognize sin as sin or be afraid to call sin sin. We have to recognize sin as sin, otherwise we approve it and do harm to our neighbor, affirming him in it when we should be seeking his salvation.
But although we are required to judge false doctrine and reprove sin, we are supposed to do so not out of malice and retribution but in love for our neighbor. You are not supposed to delight in the sin and shame of your neighbor but to love him and seek his good. So if your brother in the church sins, Jesus tells you to take him aside and rebuke him, but in such a way that you save his reputation. Unless his sin is publicly known, you take him aside and reprove him in secret. “Judge not” does not mean that God forbids you to notice your neighbor’s sin. It means that God forbids you to wish your neighbor anything but his everlasting blessing, even when he sins. So you are allowed to notice your neighbor’s sins and even to call him on them, but only in the interests of seeing your neighbor blessed and saved for eternity.
This is the mercy we are to show to our enemies. When they judge and condemn us, we don’t condemn and hate them in return, but pray and work for their salvation.
When we consider that this is the standard to which God holds His children, we are liable to be struck with fear. How often we are possessed by judgmental thoughts and impulses to condemn! Even more, we carry those thoughts and impulses out in bitter words, in gossip, in curses. How often when we do carry out our callings to judge and reprove we are not motivated by love toward our brothers but by a vengeful spirit. We can see that our hearts are filled with unmercifulness that is not like the character of our Father in heaven. Because He does not count up people’s sins. He freely gives daily bread, life, and every good thing even to those who hate Him.
And He would not stop at that. He wants to give everything that is His to His enemies, even His only-begotten Son. It is God’s will that no sinner should perish or be judged or condemned. Jesus said, “Whoever hears my Word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24)
If that is God’s will, that is the extent of His mercy, how can we be children of the merciful Father when there is still so much of a judging, condemning spirit in us?
The answer is that the remnants of our sinful nature that still live in us, as powerful as they may be, are not counted to the repentant Christian. Only Christ’s righteousness and the good works He does in us are counted to us. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Christians struggle with their desire for vengeance, with their mercilessness. They struggle against their Old Adam daily because it was killed with Christ in Baptism. We struggle against our old wicked nature because it was crucified with Christ, and we belong to another—to Him who was raised from the dead. And the sin that remains in us while we daily repent and believe in Christ is not counted to us. It is forgiven, covered.
That does not mean that you should take it easy in your fight with your merciless sinful nature. It must be resisted and be put to death moment by moment, day by day. Those who don’t fight against the judgmental old Adam in them are not children of God, who is merciful. But when these words of Christ terrify you, don’t despair. You are not judged because you believe in Jesus Christ. You are not condemned because you are in Him. His Spirit lives in you and fights against your sinful nature that wants to judge and condemn, be unforgiving, etc. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are Sons of God. You are not under law, but under grace. The Holy Spirit bears witness that your sins are forgiven through Christ and He leads you in the footsteps of your merciful Father in heaven.
So these words of Jesus provide us with consolation and assurance that our faith in Him is right and living. “Forgive and you will be forgiven, give and it will be given to you…for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you again.” That doesn’t mean that you must forgive and give perfectly, otherwise you will have no reward. It means this: You believe that God is your Father through Christ and freely forgives you. So when you see yourself striving to forgive and give and not judge, etc., you can say, “See, this is proof that I have true faith in Christ, because the Spirit within me is warring against my old unmerciful nature. If I was a child of the devil there would be no struggle. I would judge, condemn, hate, and revenge myself without compunction.”
God is merciful. Thank God. Because of His mercy our sins are forgiven. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
By His body and blood today, by which He shows and assures us of His mercy, may He give us merciful hearts that reflect His mercy to our lost world.
And may His Word, which endures forever, go forth in power to convict the world of sin and to comfort sinners with His mercy in Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria
3rd Sunday after Trinity
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 15:1-10
June 21, 2015
“Love For the Lost Sheep”
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him. Luke 15:1
This is a marvelous sentence. The tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to hear Jesus. It wasn’t just your everyday, run-of-the-mill sinners who were coming to listen to Jesus. It was the blatant sinners, people who were marked and avoided as being godless, excommunicated sinners. They were coming to listen to Jesus preach, and Jesus was receiving them, not driving them off.
For some of us today this may be a difficult thing to relate with. These were people living in public, open, unrepentant sin. Maybe you are not. Of course, we all know plenty of other people who are openly unrepentant. For instance, those who despise God’s Word by seldom or never coming to hear it preached. Those who openly live in sexual sin—premarital sex, adultery, homosexuality, pornography. Those who slander and backbite and continue to do so even though they are rebuked. The list goes on. Paul gives us a longer list in Galatians chapter 5. “Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). When a person falls into such sins and does not repent, it means that they have fallen from the grace of God. They are on their way to hell.
Now most of us here today, or at least many of us, are not living in such sins. So it may be hard for us to relate to the joy this passage holds for sinners and tax collectors, for those who have fallen into grievous sin. For those who have fallen this passage holds out news of hope and unspeakable joy. It tells us that God is not idly or happily watching sinners perish. He is eagerly seeking the fallen, desiring their salvation. And when He finds them and brings them home, He rejoices over them along with all the angels in heaven.
That’s truly good news if you are a tax collector or a sinner, if you are sorry and afraid of your sins and long for salvation. God is seeking you out to give you forgiveness and restore you. But what if your sins are not so great and you are not so heavily burdened by them? What if you have not fallen into public, unrepentant sin?
First of all, you should give thanks to God for preserving you from great shame and vice, because without His grace you too would surely have fallen. But secondly this Scripture also shows how severely even those who have lived an upright life before the world have sinned. It draws a picture of what kind of love God has for the ungodly, and what kind of love He requires in the Law that we have.
You have heard the summary of the ten commandments before. The summary of the first table is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength.” And the second table is summarized with “Love your neighbor as yourself.” What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? Jesus says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s simple. It’s the golden rule we teach to children. If your neighbor is hungry or thirsty, you feed him and give him something to drink, because that’s what you would have him do to you. If your neighbor is being slandered, you defend his reputation. If he has property, you help him to keep it and improve it, you don’t try to get it away from him. That’s love in external, bodily things, and that’s what God requires of us in the ten commandments.
But it is a much greater thing to love your neighbor in spiritual things. That means when you see your neighbor on the road to hell, you don’t shrug it off and say, “That’s his problem.” You deal with your neighbor as if his sin was your sin. What would you want your neighbor to do for you if you were caught in a sin and bound for hell? Would you want him never to say anything about it and mind his own business? Or would you want him to take you aside and preach the law of God to you so that you turn from your evil way and seek God’s grace? For myself, I would want my neighbor not to talk about me, nor cast me off as a lost cause, but to take me aside and warn me frankly to repent of my sin. I would want him to love me enough to seek my eternal welfare.
And that’s how much God commands and requires that we love our neighbor. He requires that we love him enough to seek his eternal well-being as if it were our own. That doesn’t just mean telling him that Jesus loves him and hoping he gets it. It means warning him with the law when he is unrepentant. But God doesn’t just require talk from us to our neighbor. Our hearts are to be full of love toward our neighbors, so that we can’t rest while they are perishing. That’s the way that God loves the lost, and it was this love that made the sinners and tax collectors come to Jesus. They heard stern rebukes and warnings from Jesus. Jesus preached, “Repent.” But they didn’t run away from Jesus as a harsh judge. It was clear that everything Jesus did and said proceeded from deep, passionate love for lost sinners. He was searching for them, longing for them, seeking them out the way a widow looks for her lost coin or a shepherd searches for his lost sheep.
In the past few weeks you’ve heard me try to speak clearly and call sin sin with regard to some of the things our society is trying to whitewash and legitimize. But in the scheme of things it’s relatively easy to stand behind this pulpit and say trying to change your sex is sinful, or having relations with someone of the same sex is sinful. But all of that is a dead work if there isn’t also love for sinners behind it. The Pharisees and scribes were able to call sin sin too. But they fell short of the righteousness of God because they didn’t also have heartfelt love for lost sinners that seeks them out and makes their sin its own. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I am a clanging gong or a crashing cymbal.”
And that’s just how we are in our sinful flesh—a lot of noise with no substance. A tongue ready to declare the law with a heart devoid of love for those who are condemned by the law. Our love for sinners is lacking. More often than not we don’t rebuke our sinning neighbors. We claim that we refrain out of love, when really it’s that we’re more afraid of our loved ones, friends, or acquaintances getting angry with us. We so quickly grow tired of calling people to repentance, especially when we feel their hostility. And when we do rebuke, we often do so not out of heartfelt love for the lost but out of our own anger or disgust. And people can sense this. They sense that we lack the love that seeks the good of our sinning neighbor as if it were our own good. And the tax collectors and sinners do not draw near to us, because they rightly sense that we are not going to rejoice over their being found.
By this standard, God’s standard, we all stand in great need of repentance. By human standards such a lack of love is no big deal. But in the sight of God it is an inexcusable hard-heartedness.
The tax collectors and sinners were burdened by the weight of their sins and the judgment of God. That’s why they found joy when they drew near to Jesus and heard that their sins were forgiven. If we cannot feel the burden of our sin of lovelessness, we should at least believe God that such a lack of concern for the eternal welfare of our neighbor is a great sin in His sight. We may not feel the full weight of our sins, but we should believe God and draw near with the tax collectors and sinners to listen to Jesus.
Then Jesus’ parable comes as good news to us, too. It comes as joyful news whether we are public sinners or those whose lack of love condemns us before God. Jesus tells us that God is in no way passive as He sees sinners on the way to destruction. God is actively seeking us while we are lost, before we start looking for Him. He is looking for us while we are lost because we are of great value to Him, the way a lost sheep is valuable to its shepherd, the way a lost coin is valuable to a poor widow. Whenever we become aware of the heaviness of our sins, we begin to tremble before God. The law and our conscience tell us that He must be furiously angry with us. Indeed, according to the law He cannot be anything less than angry with us as sinners. But Jesus tells us here that God is not hunting us like an avenger when we are lost in our sins. He is looking for us, eager to bring us back home on His shoulders, and to call His friends, the angels and the saints, together, that they might rejoice with Him over us. He hunts for us the way a widow hunts for a lost coin and the way a shepherd hunts for a lost sheep.
He was hunting for you long before you were hunting for Him. Before the foundation of the world, Scripture tells us, He planned for your redemption. He foresaw our fall into sin and He planned to give His Son to redeem us. Jesus came and sought out lost sinners by taking up human nature, so that there is nothing about us that is foreign to God. He has taken up everything that we are. And though He committed no sin, He made Himself one with us in our guilt before God. He picked us up like a lost sheep and put us on His shoulders. We were lost in our sins and could not find our way back to God, innocence, and life. He found us. He met us and found us at the cross of Calvary, where He bore all the wrath of the righteous God at our sins.
He eagerly sought out the lost sinner, you, all the way to the death of the cross. Now He seeks us out in the preaching of His Word. With the preaching of His law He finds us lost in our sins. He sweeps the house and uncovers us in the dust when He preaches the ten commandments to us. Then He proclaims the good news of the forgiveness of our sins through His cross. He puts us on His shoulders and carries us. He exalts us and lifts us up to sit on His shoulders. His righteousness is our righteousness. His holiness is our holiness. Now wolf can get to us when we lie on the shoulders of our shepherd Jesus. To destroy His lamb the devil, death, hell, and sin must first destroy Jesus. And that is impossible because He is risen from the dead, the conqueror of sin, death, and the devil. He puts us on His shoulders when He baptizes us, preaches the Gospel to us, absolves us, and feeds us His body and blood.
What is mine is yours, He tells us in the Gospel. In His love, which is a consuming fire, He has made everything that is His serve us. His life is our life, His righteousness our righteousness.
This is how we have to learn to console our consciences when our sins afflict us and death confronts us. At such times God’s law thunders in our ears that we have transgressed and earned His wrath. The threats of the law terrify us and we feel we are going to perish in God’s anger. That’s all our reason and our flesh know—God’s law and the righteousness it proclaims, that the one who does it is righteous. That’s the reason the scribes and Pharisees sneer and grumble at Jesus. “The law says sinners are cursed and cast out from God’s presence. How can Jesus receive them?” They don’t know the righteousness of God that the Gospel proclaims, and our flesh doesn’t understand it either. “hOw can God, who hates sin, love and eagerly desire sinners?” This is the mystery of the Gospel and it is what Jesus came to teach. Jesus didn’t come to preach a new law or set of laws. Moses had given the law already. Jesus came to preach the good news that God is seeking the lost sinners and that when they are found he rejoices over them.
How are lost sinners found? When they are brought to repentance. That is, when they hate their sins but believe that God has forgiven them through Jesus. This is the picture we need to put before our eyes when our sins accuse us and we are afraid of God’s wrath. We need then to hold on to this Gospel that tells us that God is eagerly seeking the lost sinners and rejoices over their salvation as if He had found a great treasure.
When we aren’t troubled about our sins and we are living our life on earth, it is a good thing for us to have the law before our eyes. Then we can have Jesus before us as an example. He didn’t seek His own welfare and wealth but ours. He saw us helpless in our sin and gave Himself to bear it and to preach to us that we might not remain lost but might be brought to God. The love that made Him do this should be our example when we are dealing with our neighbor. We should be willing to suffer everything and give up everything if only our neighbor might be saved. Jesus’ example should move us to pray to God to give us more fervent love for our neighbor, so that we are willing to rebuke him and bear with him and love him until his soul is saved. Jesus’ example should stand before us, together with the ten commandments, as a sermon that puts to death our self-love and our self-seeking so that we seek our neighbor’s welfare in body and soul. The example and love of Jesus is what propels us to take risks in seeking our neighbor’s salvation.
But whenever we are frightened of our sins and God’s wrath, whenever our failure to love accuses us, then we must have Jesus before us not as our example but as our redeemer. For He has sought us out and put us on His shoulders. He bore the cross and our sins, and He placed us into His body crucified and risen in our Baptism. We cling to Him and hang around His neck. He is ours and we are His. Our sin is His sin. His righteousness and life is our righteousness and life.
This is what gives us confidence to witness, to proclaim Christ, to seek our neighbor’s salvation. If we were being judged by God’s law no one would ever dare to open their mouth in Christ’s name. After all, who knows? You might say something wrong. You might not rightly divide law from Gospel. You might sin and make the Gospel look bad. You might offend someone so that they never want to hear the word of God again.
But we are not being judged by God’s law. We are righteous by faith alone in Jesus. Our righteousness is complete and certain because it is the righteousness of Jesus. So when we seek our neighbor’s salvation, we do it not to justify ourselves or contribute something toward our salvation. That is already accomplishes. We do it out of love—out of love for Jesus who has redeemed us, and out of love for our neighbor whom we begin to love in Christ and whom our Lord Jesus has already loved when He was crucified.
May God fix before our eyes the love of Christ toward us and fill us with love toward our neighbor. As we partake of Christ’s passionate love toward us in His body and blood, may He also fill us with ardent love toward lost sinners, whether they are in our church, our families, or our neighborhoods.
Soli Deo Gloria
The Gospel is spoken to those only who acknowledge their sins, and their sins they acknowledge when they repent of them. But this Gospel is of no use to the Pharisees, for they do not acknowledge their sins. To those, however, who do acknowledge them, and are about to despair, the Gospel must be brought…
Therefore, when you feel your sins gnawing at you, and feel your heart trembling and agitated, place yourself beside the publicans where they are standing. These are the very ones who shall receive the Gospel. Do so joyously, and say: “Oh God! It is thy word that says there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine righteous persons, who need no repentance, and that all the righteous and angels are to interpose and cover up sins. Now, Oh, God! I have come to this that I feel my sins. I am already judged. I need but the one Shepherd who seeketh me; and I will therefore freely venture on thy Gospel.”
It is thus that you come to God. You are already the sheep placed upon his shoulders. You have found the Shepherd. You are the piece of silver in the hand. You are the one over whom is joy in heaven in the presence of all the angels. We are not to worry, if we do not experience or feel this at once. Sin will daily decrease, and its sting will drive you to seek God. You must struggle against this feeling by faith, and say: “Oh God! I know thou hast said this, and I lean upon thy Word. I am the sheep and the piece of silver; thou the shepherd and the woman.”
You might say: Yes, this I will gladly do; but I cannot atone for my sins. I can render no satisfaction for them. Consider then the publicans and sinners. What good have they done? None. They came to God, heard his Word and believed it. Do the same.
You have often heard that it is our duty, for love’s sake, to serve our neighbor in all things. If he is poor, we are to serve him with our goods; if he is in disgrace, we are to cover him with the mantle of our honor; if he is a sinner, we are to adorn him with our righteousness and piety. That is what Christ did for us. Phil. 2. He who was so exceedingly rich did, for our sake, empty himself and become poor. He served us with his goods, that we in our poverty might become rich. He was made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Now, the outward works of love are very great, as when we place our goods in the service of another. But the greatest is this, that I surrender my own righteousness and make it serve for the sins of my neighbor…This means that I must love the sinner and be his friend, must be hostile to his vices and earnestly rebuke them, yet that I must love him with all my heart so as to cover his sins with my righteousness…
In short, such and enemy of my neighbor am I to be that I cannot let him suffer. So dearly must I love him that I shall even run after him, and shall become like the shepherd that seeks the lost sheep, like the woman that seeks the lost piece of silver…
A truly Christian work is it that we descend and get mixed up in the mire of the sinner as deeply as he sticks there himself, taking his sin upon ourselves and floundering out of it with him, not acting otherwise than as if his sin were our own. We should rebuke and deal with him in earnest; yet we are not to despise but sincerely to love him. If you are proud toward the sinner and despise him, you are utterly damned…
Moses acted thus when the Israelites worshipped the molten calf. He mingled freely with the people in their sins. Yet he punished them severely, and caused three thousand men to be slain from gate to gate. Ex. 32. After that he went up and bowed down before God, and prayed that he would forgive the people their sin, or blot him out of the Book of Life. Behold, here we have a man who knew that God loved him and had written his name in the book of the blessed; and yet he says: “Lord, I would rather that thou shouldest damn me and save the people.”
Paul, too, acted thus. At times he rebuked the Jews severely, calling them dogs and other names. Yet he knelt down and said: “I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake.” Rom. 9:3. It is as if he had said: “I would willingly be anathema, if only the mass of the people might be helped…”
Such should be your bearing toward sinners; inwardly the heart in service, outwardly the tongue in earnest.
Martin Luther, “Third Sunday after Trinity” in Lenker Vol. 2, pp. 57-66.
In Memoriam + Raymond Swank
Tezak Funeral Home
June 16, 2015
“Good News for Sinners”
Chris, Kathy, Phillip, Kimberly, Raymond, and Edith,
Raymond’s family and friends,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel reading we just heard contains extremely joyful news if you are a sinner. It tells us that Jesus goes looking for sinners the way a shepherd goes looking for his lost sheep, the way a widow goes looking for money that she’s lost. Jesus seeks out sinners, and when He finds them He carries them back home, and God and all the angles rejoice. That’s why Jesus wasn’t ashamed to be seen eating and drinking and commiserating with people who had been rejected by the Scribes and Pharisees, who were important religious people in those days. They grumbled about Jesus: “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” They mean that Jesus didn’t shun and reject sinners. He let them come to Him.
This is good news for sinners. It means that if you are one Jesus will not cast you out but receive you. And to be received by Jesus means to receive eternal life and be saved from the punishment of sin, which is eternal damnation.
Unfortunately in our day and age sinners seem to have become extinct. We no longer can find them. People in our time think that all people are basically good. They may make bad decisions, but basically they’re good. So we don’t worry too much about hell or being judged by God, because God knows [we’re told] that everyone is basically doing the best they can.
But that isn’t what the Bible says. It says that all human beings are sinners. It says that even if a person lives a respectable life in the world, even a religious life, he is a sinner before God, because he doesn’t love God with all his heart or his neighbor as himself. People are born this way, with a heart inclined to disobey God’s commandments, in fact, with hearts that are unable to keep God’s commandments. That makes us sinners. And the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6). God told the first man and woman on earth that if they disobeyed His commandment they would surely die. And so human beings have lived and died since the first man and woman sinned. They lived breaking God’s commandments, trying to avoid facing the fact that after they died they would be judged by God not only for their actions, but also for evil words and thoughts and desires. Human beings by nature are truly in a hopeless situation. They are condemned to eternal death and torment in hell for their sins.
But in the Gospel for today we have good news for sinners. The Gospel tells us that all the really obvious, blatant sinners were coming near to Jesus, who is God in human flesh. And Jesus was not driving them away, even though they had broken God’s commandments. He was receiving them, eating with them, dwelling with them, even though they had sinned and were still sinners. Jesus was so friendly and kind with these obvious sinners that the people who were considered upstanding religious leaders were disgusted. They grumbled, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” And they were right. Jesus didn’t cast away the sinners but received them as righteous people.
He not only received the sinners when they came, but He was seeking them out before they drew near to Him. That’s why Jesus was in the world, to seek out and save lost sinners who were condemned to hell. A bible passage says, “This is a trustworthy saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1). In the Old Testament reading today we heard a prophecy of what Jesus’ work on earth would be: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…” (Is. 61:1) That’s why Jesus came into the world—to bring good news and comfort to those who are brokenhearted because of sin and suffering and death. To free them from the prison of sin, death, and hell.
Today you are brokenhearted. You may be relieved that Raymond’s struggles on earth are over, but you still are brokenhearted because you have had to lose one you love. Jesus came into the world to comfort people who are broken by sin and death. He came to set them free from that prison. He came to seek out and save sinners. How does He do that? By preaching the forgiveness of sins.
The reason we die and face judgment from God is because we are sinners. But God, in His mercy, did not want us to live and die in the prison of sin. So He came into the world as one of us, a human being. He lived perfectly according to the law of God, without sin. Then He suffered and died, bearing our sins before God, so that sin and its punishment might be taken away from us.
That is how Jesus bore the lost sheep on His shoulders. He took all the guilt of lost sinners on Himself and bore the punishment, the wrath of God, on the cross. And now He calls out into the world with the voice of the Gospel and goes searching for the lost sheep, the ones who have wandered from God and eternal life. He says, “Come to Me.”
And what do you have to do to come to Jesus? Nothing. That is to say, you have to be a sinner. If you are a sinner, if you acknowledge yourself to be one, then Jesus’ voice is calling you with the good news that your sins are forgiven. There is nothing you have to do or can do to earn the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Jesus has already earned it for you. You simply receive it from Him as a gift. He testifies that the forgiveness of sins belongs to you in the Gospel. He says, “Your sins are forgiven because I died for you. It is all done.” In Baptism, He pledges that the forgiveness of sins is yours. And in Church He gives His body and blood under the bread and wine to assure us that our sins are forgiven and we have eternal life.
So being a Christian and being righteous before God is not a work or a series of good deeds that we have to perform. God does it. He convicts us of our sins by preaching to us His law and the judgment to come. Then He consoles and comforts sinners, He gathers them to Himself, by preaching the forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death for us. And He continues to do this. That’s why Christians go to church. It isn’t supposed to be because you earn points with God by going to church. But in the services of God’s house Jesus preaches good news to the poor. In the services of God’s house He gathers sinners to Himself and proclaims to them the forgiveness of their sins. It is that preaching of Jesus that sustains our faith that we are righteous before God in the ongoing struggle we have with sin as long as we are alive. Without Jesus’ word we are left alone in our sins like a lost sheep or a lost coin that cannot find its way back.
Today as you say goodbye to the man who was your husband, father, grandfather, friend, you are not alone. Jesus is with you. He is not with you with false promises and hopes like the world gives—the false hope that there are no sinners and God will give everyone eternal life as long as they are a somewhat decent person. Jesus is with you with the hope and promise that God gives. His promise is that God is seeking His lost sheep and that He and the angels rejoice in heaven whenever one sinner repents. His promise is that He carries lost sinners on His shoulders like a shepherd who finds his lost sheep. He gives the true hope and promise to all who are troubled by sin and death that He has died and made atonement for all your sins and rescued you from the power of hell.
Though this is a day of grief, may God grant that there be rejoicing in heaven today over sinners who repent and believe the good news of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. On this day when we mourn over the power of death, may the stronger power of eternal life manifest itself as lost sheep find rest on the shoulders of Jesus Christ. May God comfort you in your grief with the good news that He has sought you out and rescued you in the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria
2nd Sunday after Trinity
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 14:15-24
June 14, 2015
The Party No One Wanted To Come To.
Have you ever given a party or a dinner and no one wanted to come? Everyone made excuses? “Oh, I have to go to the doctor that day”? The excuses may even be real, but that doesn’t take away the humiliation of having no one want to come to your party. You may never have had this experience, but you can imagine how it would feel. A kid who had no one come to his birthday party would probably cry. An adult would probably feel angry at his so-called friends.
In Jesus’ parable today it is God who is throwing a party that no one wants to come to. This comes as a shock to the religious men with whom Jesus is eating a dinner. They were sure that they were going to be invited to God’s banquet, and they thought that when the invitation came they would be eager to drop everything and come to it. But Jesus tells them that they have already been invited but have refused to come.
Jesus is not really telling a new story but an old one. Long ago God gave a promise to the ancestors of the Jews that there would be a baby born from their stock who would take away the sins of the world. But most of the Jews did not believe this promise. And when God brought the people out of Egypt to be His holy nation, they continually rebelled against God and refused His offer. They didn’t believe He was going to provide for them. The second they were lacking something they complained and wanted to go back to slavery. When Moses was gone on the mountain talking to God, they built an idol and turned to it instead of to the Lord. Then when they arrived at the border of the promised land, they rebelled and did not believe that God would bring them in. Finally God said, “Fine. You will wander in the desert forty years until you die, and then I will bring your children into the land.” This is what God eventually does when people despise His promise and invitation. He eventually will let people have their own way and give His good gifts to others.
Jesus is saying that this is what will happen to the Jews. They—at least the Pharisees—are claiming that they eagerly desire to come to God’s banquet of eternal life and blessedness. But Jesus is saying, “It is already here, and you are refusing it.” The Pharisees had not listened to the preaching of John the Baptist, who called out for the people of Israel to repent and be baptized because the kingdom of God was at hand. And even more the Pharisees had not listened to the preaching of Jesus, who called them to come to the banquet of God, to receive the forgiveness of sins. Jesus called them to come because the kingdom of God was present where He was. He was the King. In Him God and man are united in one person. In Him there is fellowship and communion between God and man. And He shares the fellowship and communion with all who believe in Him.
But most of the people to whom Jesus preached did not want to come to the banquet of God, which means that they did not want to come to Jesus and believe that in Him God was reconciled to sinners. They didn’t want to come because to come to Jesus meant losing earthly things, or at least putting them second. In Jesus’ parable the people who are invited to the banquet say, “I’m sorry, I can’t come because I have just bought a field.” “I have bought oxen to plow my field.” They have business and financial concerns that keep them from coming to the feast. Or, “I have just gotten married, so I can’t come.” Jesus isn’t saying it’s a sin to get married or run a business and make money, but He is saying that a person can’t put those things first and also seek God’s kingdom. Because to come to Christ, who is God’s feast where we are fed with eternal life, we must be willing to lose “life, goods, fame, child, and wife,” as we sing in “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” When God called Abraham to go into a foreign country so God could make him a great nation, Abraham could have said, “But all my family is here. It will be dangerous to go to a land where I don’t know anybody.” Abraham trusted that the God who promised to make him into a great nation would also protect him in the land into which God called him to go.
Most of the Jewish people did not believe in Christ when God invited them to come to Him and receive eternal life. What was the reason? Jesus says because they were concerned with their earthly life first—with family and business. He doesn’t say they were out living immoral lives, and that’s why they wouldn’t come to the feast. They were occupied with things that God gives. Family and work are gifts from God. However, God doesn’t want us to be so occupied with those things that they come before His greatest gift, which is the Gospel of His Son. That is the feast to which the Jews were invited and to which we are invited, and to which God invites the whole world in the preaching of Christ.
And it is a rich feast God spreads before us in the Gospel. He doesn’t offer us temporary treasures and pleasures in the Gospel. He offers and invites us to partake of rich food and drink that sustains our lives forever. He freely invites us in the Gospel to come and be forgiven all our sins through the suffering, agony, and death of His beloved Son. He says in the Gospel that everything Jesus is and has is for you. His righteousness is yours, by which He fulfilled the entire law. His innocent suffering and death is yours, by which He made full atonement for all your sins. His resurrection from the dead is yours, by which He justified us and rose with sin dead and buried to appear before God as our advocate forever. St. Paul says in Colossians, “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…In Him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him.” Through faith in Jesus alone you are forgiven all your sins and you have communion with the true God, even though by nature you are dead in your trespasses and sins. Why would anyone pass up such a rich banquet?
But that is the point of this parable. Most people did pass up this banquet in Jesus’ day, and most people still do in ours. Why? Because they hear the message of the forgiveness of sins but reject it. They believe that they are going to find what they’re looking for in earthly things—goods, fame, child, and wife. They don’t seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
So what does the master of the banquet do? He gets angry. Then he sends out his servant to invite and call other people to his banquet, people that a respectable house owner would never invite—the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. This is what God did when eventually, after the ascension of Jesus, He sent the apostles to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. But you can also see that even in Jesus’ ministry it was the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind who came to Him. Not just those who were literally sick and poor, but also the spiritually poor—tax collectors and prostitutes and sinners. These began to come to God’s banquet and believe the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.
So today God is calling those who are far off to come to His feast. We are becoming used to hearing dreary news of people not coming to Church, no longer interested in the Gospel. But it is not that way everywhere. In Africa and Asia, places where people lived in paganism and idolatry for countless generations, there is a rich harvest going on for the Gospel. The Lutheran church is growing in those lands.
Just like in Jesus’ parable, we can rest assured that God is going to fill His banquet hall. He is gathering an eternal Church which will be filled with all the elect from every tribe, nation, language, and people. God is not going to let His feast go to waste just because some people refuse it. He is too generous for that. He is going to fill His feast. And what we see from the parable is that many who seem most likely to be at God’s feast won’t be there. He fills it up with people you wouldn’t expect to find at the feast, with the poor, sick, blind, and lame, not with the wise and great of the world, but with the sufferers and the spiritually poor.
But the Lord now invites you to come to His banquet. He has prepared everything. Everything is ready. He gave His Son to bear your sins, and everything that could keep you away He has removed. And He says, “Come to my feast. Everything is ready. Come and have your sins forgiven.” And since He has provided such rich food at such a cost, can He not be trusted to take care of everything else. Just like at a fancy party you would leave your keys with the valet and your coat at the checkroom, leave your concerns about your family and business with the Lord and make sure you come first to His feast. He will take good care of them. He has already prepared everything for you in the death of His Son.
The peace of God, that passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria
In Memoriam + Norman Fritz
St. Peter Lutheran Church
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
June 11, 2015
“The Confidence of a Christian”
Norman’s relatives and friends,
Members of St. Peter Lutheran Church:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s word for our comfort this morning is from the epistle reading, the 5th chapter of Paul’s second Letter to the Corinthians: Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
In this reading Paul writes of the confidence or courage of a Christian. Now we know something about what courage and confidence are in the things of this world. It is a fine quality to have. It took courage and confidence to do a lot of the things that Norman did in his life. It obviously takes courage to serve your country at war as Norman did. It takes courage and confidence to drive race cars. I don’t think you’ll ever see me doing that! And it takes courage and confidence to run a business, let alone two successful businesses. There are many other qualities you need to run a successful business, but one certainly is confidence and courage—to take risks, to make decisions in the best interests of your company and its employees. And to manage and lead any group of people takes courage and confidence. Norman had these qualities, along with the industriousness and work ethic that seems to be a quality of just about everyone in the Fritz family. Norman didn’t sit on his hands. He was working, even in retirement.
Courage and confidence is a fine gift of God in earthly things. It enables a person to move forward when things aren’t easy and the future is uncertain. But in the reading from Second Corinthians Paul talks about a Christian’s courage and confidence. It is a much rarer gift than earthly confidence. It enables a person to live and work confidently in the face of death and the judgment of God. This is a boldness that very few people have. Some people are brave in earthly things, but very few are brave in the face of death and God’s judgment. When you ask people what they think is going to happen to them when they die, many people will say, “I will go to a better place.” But when they are threatened with death or even some lesser trouble, they are filled with anxiety. Others who are more conscious of the fact that God will judge them when they die say, “I hope I will go to heaven.” But rare is the person who believes that God will judge the living and the dead according to His holy law, but who also says with confidence, “I will be with the Lord when I die!”
Yet God wants to give us this Christian courage and confidence. It is no small thing, this courage, that enabled Paul to write: “We know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling…” (2 Cor. 5:1-2) Imagine that—being so sure that we will live forever that we long to put off this life and this body and put on immortality! Such confidence and courage seems crazy to the world. But imagine the courage we would have if we could be so certain that we will rise from the dead and have eternal life!
Paul says that Christians do have this courage and confidence. We don’t all have it in the same amount. But being Christians we believe that our sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ and that, just as HE has risen from the dead, so also will we. But very often our faith in this is weak and our courage is not as great as it would be if our faith were firmer.
Of course there are those who have no right to be courageous and confident in the face of death and God’s judgment. Indeed, most people on earth have no right to this confidence. Paul says, “So whether we are at home or away [from the body], we make it our aim to please Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Cor. 5:9-10)
Anyone who hears those words and has no fear about being judged for the deeds he has done in the body should question whether he has Christian confidence or the false courage of the flesh. A Christian knows that if he were judged by God for the deeds he has done in the body by himself, apart from Christ, he could not please God. For God’s law requires not only that we be decent people but that we be perfect in thought, word, and deed. So the only way it can come out well for us at the judgment seat of Christ is if our evil thoughts and deeds are entirely removed from us. Those who are confident that they have lived a good enough life to stand before the judgment seat of Christ have a false courage and confidence. So do those who have no concern about serving God or hearing His Word. They have a courage and confidence that enables them to go on living in their sins without worrying about death and God’s judgment. But it is not Christian courage. It is courage that comes from spiritual blindness; a false courage, like when teenagers take risks not so much because they are brave but because they are foolish and unaware of the dangers that are around them.
Christian courage does not belong to those who are unconcerned about their sins. But it is for sinners who know that they have fallen short of God’s law. It is for sinners who perhaps all their lives have struggled against their sin and unbelief. It is for those sinners who know that they cannot stand before the judgment seat of Christ with their own works, but who believe, with however weak a faith, that Jesus Christ died on the cross to remove their sins from them and clothe them with righteousness. To you who know yourselves to be poor, miserable sinners, God wills for you to have the confidence, the good courage, that to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord.
Where do we get this courage? How does God give it? He gives it through His Word. God does not promise to give us a spiritual experience that takes away all doubt. He makes us courage and confident in the face of death and judgment through His Word—through the reading of the Scriptures and through faithful preaching. In the Word He promises and certifies that through the suffering Jesus endured on the cross our evil deeds were taken away and the righteousness of Christ was put on us. And if we are righteous, that means God will raise us up from the dead just as He raised Jesus.
“So we are always of good courage,” says Paul. We are always courageous and know that “while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:6-7) Our sight tells us that death is the end. It tells us that death is the final destruction of our life. Even more, our eyes and our reason tell us that we are sinners against God even while we believe in Jesus. They say, “You have no reason to expect that you have ‘a heavenly dwelling, a building from God…eternal in the heavens.’ By your sins you displease God. How can you expect that when you put off this tent, this earthly body, you will be with the Lord?” That’s what sight and human reason says. But we walk by faith, not by sight. We trust God’s Word instead of what we see. And God’s Word says that we are pleasing to God through Jesus, because He removed our evil deeds with His death and clothed us with His righteousness. In Baptism we were plunged into His death and resurrection. Our evil works were removed and we were clothed in Christ’s glorious righteousness. So we are of good courage and trust that for us to die, to be separated from our earthly bodies, is not to be swallowed up by death and destruction, but to be at home with the Lord.
This is the courage and confidence God gives in His Word. He gives us courage that when we are “away from the body we are at home with the Lord.” When a Christian dies, his soul goes to the Lord in paradise. Then suffering and sin and fear will be over. We will be comforted by Jesus. We will no longer have weakness and pain and futility. We will no longer eat our bread in the sweat of our face, for the curse of sin will be removed from us. We will be with all the saints in glory who died in faith in Christ, including our Christian loved ones. We will see them, but even more we will see Jesus in His glory, and that sight will remove all sadness and sorrow. Right now we wish we could see our righteousness and our heavenly inheritance, but we can’t. We walk by faith, not by sight. But after death Christians will walk by sight, not by faith.
God gives us courage through the Gospel not only that we will be with the Lord in our souls after death, but that at the resurrection of the dead we will put on our “heavenly dwellings,” our resurrected bodies. They will not be like these tents we dwell in now. They will not be subject to weakness, sickness, pain, suffering, and death. They will be immortal bodies that never age or grow weak. And they will share in the glory of God. Because they will be raised in the image of Jesus, who is the image of God, even as we now bear the image of Adam who sinned and died. We have courage from the Word of God that our bodies will be like His glorious body and will share in the glory of God. He pledges us this when He gives us His body and blood crucified and shed for our salvation under the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. We will “not be unclothed, but further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
The Word of God also gives us courage that God has prepared us or worked in us for eternal life. Often Christians are uncertain about their salvation, unfortunately. They see the power of death and doubt that God is really going to deliver them from it. Or they see their sins and doubt that they are really pleasing to God. But Paul says, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Cor. 5:5) We know that God has prepared us for eternal life because the Gospel tells us that He has given His Son to die with our sins and punishment. And in Baptism and the preaching of the Gospel God has worked in us so that we receive the life won by His Son. He gives us the Holy Spirit in Baptism and through His Word as a down payment, a guarantee of the eternal life that is to be ours after we die, when Jesus raises us from the dead.
Finally, the courage we receive from God’s Word is the courage that our works are pleasing to God. Sometimes people have the idea that only so-called ”spiritual” works are pleasing to God. Only if you’re reading the Bible, witnessing, serving the Lord as a missionary are your works pleasing to God. But so-called “secular” works like running a business or driving a race car are supposed to not be particularly pleasing to God. Other times, as we get older and death comes nearer we wonder about the value of the thing we have done in our lives. But God’s Word gives us courage and confidence that our work in life has been valuable because it has pleased God. In our sinful flesh nothing we do is pleasing to God, not even so-called spiritual works. A pastor who is unconverted and does not believe in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit doesn’t please God in any of his works, even if he preaches God’s Word and even if he suffers for it. But a Christian’s works are well-pleasing to God, whether he is cleaning latrines or working at McDonald’s, whether he is on vacation or at work, at church or at home. The Christian’s works please God because a Christian is pleasing to God through faith in Jesus alone. And when the Christian goes to work, no matter how little that work may be in his own eyes or the eyes of others, the work pleases God because he is doing what God called him to do. When we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, Christians will have no evil deeds but lots of good deeds. Why? Because all a Christian’s evil deeds are washed away by the blood of Jesus, which he receives through faith. And the works that we do by faith in Christ according to God’s command and will are really Christ’s works in us. If I run a business and serve my customers and take care of my employees, through faith in Jesus Christ, it is a pleasing work in God’s sight. God doesn’t judge work by the greatness of it in the eyes of the world or even our own eyes, but by whether it is done according to His will and in faith in Him. Because God is always busy at work doing things that few people appreciate. He is hard at work not building monuments to Himself but sustaining the lives of His creatures, cleaning up after them, caring for them. So He is pleased not when we build great monuments but when we believe in His great work of saving us through the cross of Jesus, and when we faithfully carry out our callings in the world according to His word.
That is our courage and confidence as Christians. We have courage and confidence that to die is to be with the Lord Jesus. We have courage from His Word that He will raise us up in bodies that are eternal and share in His glory. We have courage from His Word that God has worked in us to prepare us to participate in eternal life. And He gives us courage that our work on earth is well-pleasing to Him and not in vain, because they are His Son’s works in us.
With such courage and confidence we give thanks to God for the life of Norman. We thank God that his parents loved him and brought him to Christ as a little baby that Jesus might bless him with salvation in the waters of baptism. We give thanks that Jesus was nailed to the cross to take away all his evil deeds and the sin in which he was born, and that Norman continued hearing the Gospel which gives us courage and confidence in the face of death and God’s judgment. We give thanks for the good that he was permitted to receive and give, and above all we give thanks for the hope of everlasting life which God freely promised Norman, and which He freely promises us who are by nature dead in trespasses and sins. Through that word and promise God gives you good courage to say, “When I am away from the body I will be at home with the Lord.” And through His Word and holy Sacraments He wants to increase this courage in you so that you may be confident and bold in the face of death and judgment.
May God our Father remove from us all false confidence, so that we recognize our helplessness in sin and trust in Jesus alone. And may He strengthen our confidence that Jesus has accomplished our salvation, so that we may “always be of good courage” and eagerly long for the day when we put off this earthly tent and put on immortality!
The Peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria