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Many of you are here this morning for one purpose and for one purpose only. You want to receive forgiveness from God for all of your sins. While you're here you may also partake of some coffee and cake and enjoy some conversation with good friends. While you're here, you may make plans to get together with others for dinner or to go fly-fishing. But that's not what brings you here in the first place. At least I hope it's not. You're here because this is the time and the place where we confess our sins and our sinfulness to God and receive His answer – a clear, unambiguous, unconditional, unforgettable, "I forgive you all of your sins."
If the church is what the church is supposed to be, it is the gathering place for sinners who want to be set free from the guilt and shame and burden of their sins through the infallible means of grace; the announcement of Absolution, the washing of Holy Baptism and the holy communion with Jesus Christ in the Lord's Supper.
I'm not naive. I'm well aware that some churches offer other remedies for sinners and their sins than forgiveness. Some offer spiritual pep-rallies that help sinners be happy. Others offer step-by-step ways to quit sinning. Others preach that society has confused you and your sin is not really sin.
But the only remedy for sinners and their sins that the Scriptures offer is Christ, and Him crucified for the forgiveness of your sins. Have you been unfaithful to someone? Have you been dishonest with someone? Have you been a gossip and hurt someone's reputation? Have you taken something from someone? Repent and receive the full and complete forgiveness from God the Father for the sake of His crucified Son through the delivery by the Holy Spirit.
Sinners do not need to live with the shame and guilt that inflames our troubled conscience. Nor do we need to find our own way out of the trouble and pain we've brought upon ourselves. Nor do we need to live in fear before God. God has provided the remedy for all of that through the body and blood of Christ, died for you, given for you, shed for you, raised from the dead for you, ascended into heaven for you.
So, if you confess that you are a sinner who sins and you've come here looking for forgiveness, I hope that you will receive just that, because that is what the church is called and commissioned to offer you.
But this morning, we meet a woman who is not looking for forgiveness for her sins at all. She's not asking the judge to hear her confession, or hounding him to cancel her debt by his grace alone. She hasn't come to him with a heavy burden of guilt and shame. No, she's coming for justice. "Give me justice against my adversary."
Here is a woman who finds herself on the other side of sin. She's been sinned against. She is the victim of someone's unfaithfulness. She's the one who has been cheated by another's dishonesty. She is the one whose reputation has been damaged by someone's gossip. She's the one against whom an injustice has been done. She's on the receiving end of someone's sin.
How often do we take the confession that we make as seriously as we should and acknowledge that for every single one of our sins, someone is hurt and someone suffers for it. Granted, not all sins cause the same degree of pain and suffering, but even those sins that we naively think are 'private,' and 'don't hurt anyone else,' really do.
It only makes sense that for every sinner who sins, there are at least that many who are sinned against. If we hear our own confession as God hears it, then every confession of our sin must be the appeal not only for the forgiveness of our sins, but must also be the plea for healing and recovery for the one whom we've hurt by our sin.
We may suffer FOR our sins, but others suffer FROM our sins too. There are many who suffer from another's verbal or physical or sexual violence. Marital infidelity by one spouse causes incredible pain and suffering for the other spouse and the children and family members. Addictions to alcohol or gambling or pornography cause all kinds of grief for family members. The woman in the parable could be the victim of any one of these injustices.
But many others may find themselves identifying with this woman in far less spectacular ways as these. One author (Os Guiness, Unspeakable Evil) says that many people suffer from, what he calls, the "numbingly ordinary" sins of others. A child at school is wounded by malicious gossip. Parents are torn up inside by a child who is living an alternative lifestyle or who has renounced the faith or who simply doesn't communicate with them. Spouses feel cheated of the intimacy they expected from their marriage as they live together just for the sake of the children. The woman in this parable could be the victim of any of these injustices too.
So the question is this, does the church have anything to say to her? If the church is the place for sinners to come for forgiveness of their offenses, is it also the place offended may come for justice? Do we have anything to offer the wounded victim of sin? Do we have anything to those on the other side of sin who feel cheated or are just hoppin' mad?
Sadly, sometimes the church resembles the unrighteous judge in this story. We get annoyed by the inconvenience of having to sit and listen another sad story. We send offer quick remedies, 'here, take these two Bible passages and call me if the pain persists' hoping they'll go away. If they persist in coming to us for help, we've been known to recommend a rather drastic procedure called, 'suck it up.' Which, after a thorough search through a concordance, I can tell you, doesn't appear anywhere in the scriptures.
We rattle off trite truisms telling the brokenhearted to "give it time." "Time heals all wounds"? When the truth is, time doesn't heal all wounds. If it did, we wouldn't need doctors, and we wouldn't need Jesus. Actually, time heals some wounds, but it also causes some wounds to fester and get worse.
I know for a fact that there are many who, having lost a spouse to death or separation or divorce, find it too hard to come to church because they can't fake being happy or bear having to explain to everyone who is happy, why they're not. Time has not healed their wounds. They are not able to 'suck it up.'
If there is one institution in this world that ought to understand what it means to be a victim and suffer because of the sins of others, it is the one, holy, Christian Church. If there's a place where the victimized should be able to find real solace and relief, it's here. The Bible is chock full of real life accounts of innocent men and women who have suffered because of the sins of others. The church knows about innocent suffering.
And the church has something to say to all who stand on the other side of sin. We say that our Lord, Jesus Christ, knows something about innocent suffering. He, who was the only truly innocent One, suffered under Pontus Pilate, was crucified and died, solely because of the sins of others. The injustice carried out upon Him was the greatest injustice that the world has ever known and ever will. He was victimized with your victimization.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, and with our suffering and our anger and our disappointment, but we have a high priest who in every respect has been victimized as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15).
And the good news is this. Jesus got the justice that was due Him. On the 3rd day, the righteous judge of heaven and earth carried out His righteous justice by raising Jesus from the grave. And He was raised for your justification. For our justice. How much more than the unrighteous judge, has God, who loves you and given His only begotten Son for you, heard your plea and listened to your cry and answered you with His mercy and His justice and His vindication.
Those who have been sinned against belong here, in the gathering of God's people before the only merciful and righteous judge. Because of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the church has a meaningful word to speak to those who stand on the other side of sin. And doesn't that just include all of us? Aren't all of us the victims of Adam's sin in the beginning? Don't we all suffer because of his crime? Haven't we all been defiled by his fall?
Listen carefully, there is no evil that has been done to you that is so great that the power of God has not overcome it. There is no injustice that has been done to you that is so unfair that the cross of Jesus Christ has not punished.
Listen again to that Word of God that you recite every Sunday. "If we confess our sin, God who is gracious and JUST…" He is the 'just judge,' not the 'unrighteous judge' in the parable. He knows the truth and He carries out His divine justice out of the deep love He has for His injured, wounded and defiled people.
"God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and CLEANSE US FROM ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS." Not only has our Lord promised to forgive us all of our sins, but His infallible Word also promises to cleanse us of all of the unrighteousness committed against us. He removes the pain that others have inflicted on us by taking our pain upon Himself. He cleanses us of our defilement by taking it upon Himself and giving us with an undefiled heart.
Listen to the words that are attached to the bread and the wine in the Lord's Supper. "Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when HE WAS BETRAYED." He was betrayed for all who have been betrayed, by a spouse, parent, a child, a friend. To those who have suffered physical defilement, He gives His undefiled body to take and eat. To all who have been robbed of the opportunity for a satisfied and contented life, He gives His own lifeblood to take and to drink.
Listen again to the words we recite every Sunday in the Creed, "I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ… who will come again with glory to JUDGE…" He will not judge like the unrighteous judge. St. Paul declares that God the Father "has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." (Acts 17:31)
This morning, Jesus has introduced us to a woman who finds herself on the other side of sin. And what great faith she has. She is fully convinced that her justice must come from the judge. With a faith that will not be discouraged, she persists will not give up.
Listen to the word of Jesus Christ to all who find themselves on the other side of sin. "Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"