Sermon - 4/15/18
2018.04.16 21:26:49

EASTER 3/B (2018): Acts 3:11-21; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-49  


Appears,     Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (v. 2). 


What a difference a day makes! Last Sunday, eight days following the Resurrection Jesus urged Thomas and the Apostles to faithfulness in word and worship.  Jesus then blessed his church to its NT sightedness, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:29b). 


Today’s Epistle, from 1st John, continues the theme of Christian sightedness and so of our knowledge of God’s love for us and our status as his children in faith and hope.  The church’s Easter season is about our new sight for transforming the world. 


The great truth to be grasped from the Resurrection and Ascension, and it must not be missed, is that we now live in the “end-times” or more positively we now live in the promised “new creation” as the old is passing away and the new coming into being. In Christ we have our being as he is new Adam.  


Jesus’ obedience on the cross, effected man’s atonement for sin; there he was elevated our King and interceding High Priest before God. In reconciling us to God, we have in Christ, man’s new exodus out of this passing world, crossing-over into the presence of the One who wills to make all things new.  


Easter direct us into the church’s progressively acute sight in the new creation by faith, and so knowledge of our Father as his children in Christ. That which was hidden from of old is being revealed Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day from faith to faith in the revelation of Jesus crucified, risen, and ascended.   In Christ we are revealed in faith’s dependent childlike NT status in word and worship, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 


Observe Easter’s progression in its new confluence of earthly time with heaven’s eternity: faith, sight, and knowledge. Before Christ fully parted from sight of the disciples, forty days after Easter, one gets the impression that the revelation of heavenly things phased in and out before our old eyes. 


Mary Magdalene fails to recognize Jesus newly awakened out of the earth in the new Garden. But when he speaks her name, as Adam did to Eve, she immediately recognizes him as her Lord seeking his physical union.  In this desire she is a type of the NT church. 


But before union with his church Jesus must first ascend to give himself over to his Father and God and our Father and God (Jn. 20:17b) who faithfully restored his Son and us from the pit of Sheol. From here on out Jesus, resurrected and ascended, would no longer be with his church as before in the old creation.  At the cross the world has been judged and is passing away. 


In the NT epoch Jesus is always with his church (Mt. 28:20b), not merely in the space and time of discrete history, but more importantly in the mysterious or sacramental ways of heaven and eternity. Jesus’ continual presence in word and sacrament, with his church bridges us to God.  To coin a phrase, the hidden, unseen and one holy God is revealed and applied for us in Christ in heaven’s mysteries, not the world’s history.    


Next Jesus appeared to Peter and then the two disciples wandering off from the community to Emmaus. These associates also failed to recognize the Lord.  Jesus, incognito, instructs them in Scripture, showing that all of it testifies of him.  At this revelation their “hearts burned within” (Luke 24:32), and faith thus imparted by the Voice of the HS. 


Thus the Emmaus disciples were prepared by Jesus’ explication of Scripture on the road to faith. The trio sat down to meal in which the disciples recognized Jesus “in the breaking of the bread”.  Having been given heaven’s new sight, Jesus disappeared from old eyes.  


Here then is the pattern of the NT church’s fidelity in word and meal for increasingly acute sight and knowledge of God’s love in Christ. In this faith the Emmaus disciples immediately went on mission, returning to the Jerusalem fold.  There they found the community as they left it, huddled “in fear of the Jews”.  They proclaimed Jesus’ resurrected, that he taught them the true substance of Scripture, and made himself known in the breaking of the bread. 


The Apostles thus prepared, Jesus appeared bestowing on them the “Peace” of God and heaven.  In the same manner that Jesus disappeared from the Emmaus disciples’ old sight, so he now appeared to the Apostles. 


It is peculiar to Protestantism’s erroneous doctrine of the person of Christ that denies his universal bodily real presence. They explain Jesus’ presence in various ways such as an altered molecular of wood or flesh to explain “a walk through locked and closed doors”.  Of course nothing of the kind is stated or suggested in Scripture. 


Having already ascended to his Father (the celebration of which would occur in heaven 40 days later) Jesus is always with his church in a new and mysterious way befitting the new creation’s fellowship with heaven.


Jesus is present to his church, no longer in discrete earthly histories but in the mystery of his divinity in communion with his humanity, or as the Latin speaks of his presence, in a sacramental way that encompasses time and eternity of which Jesus is Lord.


When Jesus, on Easter appeared to the Apostles, he invited them to touch his body and wounds to ascertain that he is not a ghost. The disciples “disbelieved for joy” and so at Jesus expressed his desire to share their communal meal.  Now Jesus teaches his church Scripture’s witness: Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms, and the necessity of his suffering and rising for repentance and forgiveness. 


The church’s pattern and life in the presence of her Lord continues in her proclamation, recognizing the Lord in her meal, and catechizing that dispels a “joy of disbelief” to the greater joy of a sighted blessing at Jesus’ parting from old eyes. 


What a difference a day makes! From the darkness of Jesus dead, to the Light of his resurrected and ascended presence, the NT church perceives the old economy of sin and death at an end, to a new creation where in faith and hope we know our status in Christ, beloved children of God.  Thus, for the sake of sight and blessing Jesus speaks to Thomas’ fear and being physically absent from the body, “do not be faithless, but faithful” (Jn. 20:27b).


It may not appear to us now what we will be, but we do know and possess the hope of our expectations, that we shall be like Christ when he appears again on the Last Day.


In Jesus we have true Torah catechism, new washing in the mystery of the HS’ Baptism, and a new mysterious feeding to strengthen us to the church’s mission; proclaiming Jesus, the only source of the world’s righteousness and holiness in the new creation as the elect are being called out of this old world.


What a difference a day makes! After Easter the NT church gathered, no longer hostage to fear, but into the mystery of a new Temple dwelling with God, the crucified body of Jesus, in the Apostle’s teaching, and fellowship in the breaking of the bread and prayers.


In today’s Reading from Acts, Peter and John demonstrate Jesus’ continued mission in the Resurrection and Ascension, first to the Jews, witnessing to the power of God in Christ with his church. Peter heals to “perfect health” a lame beggar at the “Beautiful Gate”, the entrance to the old temple’s entrance to Jewish precincts.  At this locus a decision must be made.


By the lame beggar’s healing to “perfect health” the church proclaimed by Peter and John the bereft condition of the rejecting Jesus crucified, risen, and ascended at the time of our refreshing in the presence of the Lord of Life. The invitation is that we turn in repentance for the blotting out of the world’s sin and for faithful new sight in NT word and worship. 


Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem and the cross; from there his church, beginning at the old temple moved into the world with the good news to a dying world until the time for restoring all things on the Last Day. On that Day Jesus will appear to all, old and new eyes; some to judgment, some to everlasting Life.  Amen. 




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Sermon - 4/8/18
2018.04.11 22:10:04

EASTER 2/B (2018): Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1—2:2; John 20:19-31  


Faithful,      Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not be faithless but faithful.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” vv. 27, 28


In four and a half weeks the church will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, Jesus’ coronation as Son of Man to the right hand session of God. From the Lucan accounts that occasion leaves the church mystified about Jesus carried to the Father in clouds and parted from the sight of disciples. 


To be clear, the Ascension coronation, forty days after the Resurrection, does not, in absolute terms, mark the fact of Jesus’ ascension. Jesus’ ascension to the Father is intrinsically associated with the day of Jesus’ coming out of the grave; even as Jesus’ resurrection is associated with his death on Good Friday, and in the giving of his body and blood on Holy Thursday to be NT food. 


Fidelity to the Lord’s Supper is the Baptizeds’ daily participation into Jesus’ death, Resurrection, and Ascension. These events are all of a piece; none is independent of another and each follows one on the other to inform the entire work of God’s salvation in Christ.  Accordingly, the church dare not atomize her new Pascha in the slain Lamb for our final exodus from sin to the Father. 


On Easter morn at the empty tomb, Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn. 20:17). 


St. Mark then reports, “Afterward [Jesus] appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” (16:14). 


If you want to know of Jesus’ scolding, Thomas’ absence from and later return to the communion provides the occasion, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not be faithless but faithful.  To what were Thomas and the Apostles to be “faithful”; in context they were to be faithful in gathering, remaining One-Loaf, to be church in their crucified Lord risen and ascended!


After Jesus encountered Mary Magdalene he ascended to the Father; afterward he appeared to Peter and the Emmaus disciples revealing himself in the breaking of the bread.


Later that Easter day Jesus breathed the HS into the Ten and eight days later in meal fellowship with the Eleven, he extended his hands and side inviting Thomas to plunge into and have no doubt of his resurrected physical body.


Our Easter acclamation is, “He is risen!” Today, we ebulliently append, “He is ascended!”  If we inquired last Sunday, how Jesus’ resurrection is relevant now; then today, we ask the same of his ascension, “How is Christ ascended to the Father significant for us today?” 


Today we examine the Apostles and Thomas’ faithlessness as our own. It is not entirely fair that Thomas has been singled as “doubting Thomas” for his failure to accept Jesus’ reported bodily resurrection.  All the Apostles were acquainted with Jesus’ resurrections; the Nain widow’s son, and Lazarus in Bethany, all the recent talk of Jerusalem. 


Also there were Jesus’ several promises over the course of his ministry to rise three days after his death and fulfill his prophecy to be Israel’s new Temple, saying to the stewards of the OT salvation economy, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn. 3:19, 21).  


Belief in the Resurrection per se was not Thomas’ exact problem, certainly not a spiritual resurrection; that he could handle. Instead what gave Thomas pause along with the other Apostles, was their “fear of the Jews” (20:19), whom they knew would fundamentally and violently challenge their status as leaders of new Israel, harbingers of God’s NT faith in Christ.  “In with the new, out with the old” as it were.


Today that same “fear” continues within broader “Christianity”, presided over by all pharisaic religionists. Then and today, “fear of the Jews”, purveyors of Mosaic Law, is expressed by those who find the church’s NT food objectionable; our incarnated word and Sacrament, revealed as it were in the breaking of the bread and so more than OT spiritualized animal food. 


Sinful men are picky eaters. Adam and Eve were permitted to eat of any fruit in the Garden but desired only that which God forbad.  Noah planted a vineyard; forthwith he abused its fruit to a drunken stupor.  Esau despised his birthright and blessing as Isaac’s firstborn for a “mess of pottage”.  In the desert God provided manna from heaven, quail out of the sea, and water from the Rock, all of which Israel grumbled against, longing for familiar Egyptian soul food. 


Moses, in the daily and festival tabernacle/temple sacrifices, ordained animals for Israel’s communion with God and to physically sustain them into the Promised Land. Still all such meals were but spiritualized types to carry and continue Israel into the Land. 


In time the “Jews”, as St. John calls them, ascended to the seat of Moses, arbiters of Israel’s spiritual and physical feedings in the Land. Despite Jesus’ challenge to Jewish Torah authority; after the horror of the cross, the Jews inspired obeisance and fear from the scattered and huddled Apostles and disciples. 


Earlier, on Holy Thursday having just heard what they had received and eaten in the Supper was indeed Jesus’ body and blood, Thomas declared that he and his brothers were ignorant of the way to the Father (Jn. 14:5), which is to say, they failed to discern Jesus incarnate Son one with the Father apart from whom in such feeding no one comes to the Father.   


To repeat, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Resurrection, and Ascension are of apiece, each and all informing the others. When following his feeding the 5,000, Jesus taught in Capernaum, “I am the Bread of Life—that came down from heaven” (Jn. 6:35, 41), Jesus may have had a sympathetic ear from few or many.  But nothing in Jesus’ claim necessarily implied literal understanding than that which the Jews already acknowledged; God’s word is spiritual “bread”. 


But then Jesus took his catechesis of NT feeding further, that it would not only be spiritual; instead he was replacing Moses’ symbolic food with an incarnate feeding for the coming new exodus, “[U]nless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (6:53).  By the new feeding the NT church acknowledges ascension food to follow in the train of our crucified Lord as a Man to his session at the right hand of God (Dan. 7:13, 14, 22, 27). 


In Holy Thursday’s Supper Jesus reversed the prohibition of Adam’s eating “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” lest they die (Gen 2:17) to a new command, to partake of the knowledge of God’s goodness in delivering his only Son to men for the overthrow of evil; thus by the cross is the church’s and her Supper informed.


With a bodily Resurrection our new Pascha, not a spiritualized lamb, God at the cross has changed Israel’s salvation menu; that which in the OT was spiritual feeding on animals, is in the NT the incarnated Son of Man joining us in his own flesh for our ascension in him to the Father. By the HS our journey and our spiritual food is qualitatively different than that of ancient Israel’s to the Land, itself only a type of Christ to come. 


In the NT of Jesus’ flesh and blood is the substantive food of our spiritual and physical journey for body and soul into the heavenly precincts. In the church’s Eucharist we daily ascend Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day in Jesus to our heavenly Father.  We are New Israel.  Our new diet calls us away from Mosaic lambs and bulls to an Abrahamic faith in the Lamb which God now provides, slain from the foundation of the world. 


Thomas did not doubt the Resurrection so much as he wanted to condition and accommodate his Mosaic faith; to somehow qualify and explain Jesus’ Paschal Resurrection. Thomas’ belief in the food Jesus offered on Holy Thursday would have to be contingent on his personal assessment of Jesus’ words about the flesh and blood he just received by the words, “This is my body… This Cup is the NT in my blood”. 


Like Adam and Eve, Thomas would evaluate what Jesus declared about their new food; he would determine whether the new food was desirable or even necessary. After all Jesus was now extending a different food from that of the Jews. 


Thomas’ contingent, accommodative, and qualified faith in Jesus as bodily risen Christ is sinful man’s own way to God. But God desires an unqualified faith as by Christ, utterly abandoning human wisdom, critique, and evaluation of God’s word by our own lights; instead in Christ God desires our trust in his word alone.  This is only done when we receive ascension food from the cross in the resurrection revealing the God’s scandalous love toward us for Christ’s sake. 


The Ten Apostles’ proclamation to previously absent Thomas, put him in crisis mode; and so are we! Will we faithfully receive the new food Jesus delivers to his church in, with, and under the cross, extended in the Resurrection for our ascension with him to the Father; or will we qualify it?  Will we plunge our hands into the nail prints of his flesh and dip into the water and blood from his side for our new food for ascension to the Father in the flesh of Christ?  Sadly some reject the church’s distribution.


Today’s Reading from Acts compares two gatherings, those who rage against the Lord and his Anointed (in the previous verses vv. 25, 26) and the Baptized in Christ, who are “of one heart and soul” (v. 32).  In Christ the church held “everything in common” (v. 32) in Christ who is our provision as we ascend to the Father.  With the early church we remain faithful, proclaiming with faithful Thomas of our feeding at the Communion rail, “My Lord and my God.” Amen.




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Sermon - 4/1/18
2018.04.06 19:12:42

EASTER DAY/B (2018): Isa. 25:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Mk. 16:1-8


Feast,           On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.  And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death forever; and the LORD God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth…  “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.  This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (vv. 6-9)


Last evening we gathered in vigil, liturgically waiting for the dawning of Christ from the grave of his Sabbath rest to usher-in, by his Resurrection, the long promised new creation.


In this way we were in communion with Jesus’ first disciples awaiting the end of the Sabbath strictures, especially with Mary Magdalene, another Mary, and Salome, desirous to anoint the body of Jesus.


The difference of course is, in what they and we were awaiting. The first disciples huddled behind closed doors obedient to the Sabbath law, expecting to honor their dead Lord, anointing a dead body with fragrant spices in preparation for last rites in the grave. 


But our vigil, last night, was informed to an entirely different expectation, by the proclamation from the tomb from the angelic young man garbed in a white stole, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One. He has risen; he is not here…  But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.  There you will see him…” 


The women fled and “said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.” Clearly that was not the end of the story.  Eventually the women relayed their encounter, for Mark writes of it in this morning’s Gospel, and the church did in fact meet their Crucified and risen Lord going ahead into Galilee. 


This is the good news that informed our vigil last night; not standing watch in fear and silence, but in expectation of proclaiming Easter “alleluias”; that Jesus, the Crucified One of God has gathering us into the Light of his NT salvation through his blood as he abides with his church.


Some might ask, “What is the big deal about the Resurrection?” “O yes, Jesus has been bodily resurrected, ascended into heaven and enthroned at the right hand of God; and so the faithful are promised on the Last Day, whenever that is, they will be restored to unity of body and soul, even an upgrade. 


Is that what all the shouting is about; a Christianity that asks, “What’s in it for me”; or is our Resurrection joy more profound, immediate, and cosmic in scope and scale? I think the latter. 


In abstract terms, here is the progression of God’s salvation for you in the NT’s new creation, “All theology is Christology; all Christology is ecclesiology; and apart from the ecclesia, the gathering of the Baptized, there is no salvation.” Theologians study that mouthful all their lives, and so should you.


But what does the Resurrection concretely mean for us, now? It means that our life in Christ, our eternal life has its being in the church’s Liturgy of word and sacrament.  It is true we await our bodily resurrections on the Last Day, but the principle import is that we now live a baptismal and eucharistic resurrection with our Crucified Lord, present to us in time and place; specifically our communion and place is with the entire NT church shaped by the Triduum celebrations of Christ’s life on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. 


Is that still abstract? Then this: our continuum of worship finds daily expression in salvation’s NT epoch of what God has done in Jesus crucified; and so all our worship is connected to each and every Resurrection celebration of the church’s preceding Lord’s Day.  All of which is to say, this new Life is to be experienced.


The new reality of the Resurrection is that there are no individual, private, or discrete devotions apart from the Body of Christ; all word, Christian nourishment, and growth is eucharistically succored and comprehended in Jesus present in his crucified flesh through whom we have access to the Ancient of Days and reign in heaven and earth with Christ (Dan. 7).  


Jesus graciously initiated our participation into God’s NT rule by inviting us to our end-times meal, “Take eat, this is my body”; and because Life is in the blood (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:11) so that body and blood are again reunited in us, “Take drink, this Cup is the NT in my blood.” 


By our participation in Eucharist, death for us is defeated and on the Last Day we look to full union of separated body and soul, even as we are now united with Christ’s body and HS.


What are you to think of the church’s sacramental meal; but that it is the substance of Isaiah’s prophesy, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” 


We are on journey that does not end with heaven but continues through eternity. Isaiah’s prophecy gives us pause to consider salvation’s on-going nature, by looking back, looking to the present, and to our Last Day’s sustenance. 


God formed his church, a corporate being, that he might be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28b).  After exchanging wedding promises at Mt. Sinai, that the Lord would be Israel’s God and the church his obedient people, heaven hosted a feast.  Representatives of Israel sat upon the separating glassy sea as clarified pavement and beheld God face to face; and they ate and drank in his presence (Ex. 24:9-11); no doubt the meal included conversation with the Lord, who is Word in the place that St. John describes as being, “in beginning” (Jn. 1:1).  The invitation is to partake of the Trinity’s life through eternity.  


This meal in the place known as “in beginning” foreshadowed all future OT communion of God with Israel, and from our OT Reading portended Isaiah’s description of the coming Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9; 21:1-4). 


On Holy Thursday the church participated, as she does today, with apostolic representatives of the Bride in union with Jesus’ soon to be broken body and shed blood.


On Good Friday our Easter Triduum liturgically continued to where Jesus was baptized into the obedient death of a Son to release us from death; and with the water and blood issuing from his sacrificial Passion the church has been handed the HS for saving faith and Life.


During our Easter Vigil we awaited in faith through the night of the old Sabbath in the hope of God’s fidelity of promised union with his Son’s rising; and so also by hope we receive in Baptism that very promise. By Jesus’ resurrection we baptismally participate in his death and so die to sin and rise to new Life in his flesh and blood for our on-going Lord’s Day Supper. 


The long and the short is that Christ reigns in the world with his Baptized, his flesh-fed saints in Holy Communion, and so in the same way God has loved the world (Jn. 3:16) as we are lifted in Christ. 


In the world our witness of God’s love and Jesus’ obedience lifts us with him by partaking his “bread-flesh” and “wine-blood”, the substance and source of the new creation in the NT. By the church’s word and sacrament we have a bodily resurrection now; now we are “Body of Christ” in union with him and one another. 


As Isaiah suggests, we are the Lord’s “hosts” (25:6), the army of God. In, with, and under him we rule in heaven and earth through Christ, the Crucified One, in the same love he has shown you.  Amen and alleluia! 




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Sermon - 3/31/18
2018.04.06 19:11:39

EASTER VIGIL/ABC (2018): Mark 16:1-8


St. Mark’s Gospel termination is controversial. His earliest rendering, unlike the other evangelists, ends on a fearful note, “And [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid (v. 8); full stop, end of Mark’s original Gospel version.  


Early on many Christians thought the women’s silence and fear inappropriate in response to the angelic young man’s good news of Resurrection. Mark later appended a longer ending where Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the eleven. 


On this vigil through the night as we watch for the coming Light of Day, we are satisfied with Mark’s original version, as we anticipate the Light of Christ fully engaged, replete with “Alleluias”; but for now we join the Mary Magdalene, Mary, Salome, and those waiting through the Sabbath night following Jesus’ crucifixion; as Genesis puts it, “there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (1:5b).


Fear is the a fruit of sin; disbelieving God. Fears breed anger, and are contemptuous of what is good and true from God.  Fear is a cancer that must not be left to fester in the human soul.  The women entered the tomb bearing, perhaps a gift from Joseph of Arimathaea, a secret disciple for fear of the Jews.  


Joseph’s new tomb in the garden received Jesus’s body on Good Friday; but now on Sunday it was not there. Instead, an angelic young man greeted the women announcing Jesus’ Resurrection and assuring them that they should not be alarmed. 


Still the power of the proclamation did not as yet engage the women. None of what the women heard and saw made sense.  For fear the women suspended their belief in Jesus’ promise to rise on the third day; continuing in a state of fear.  Though dawn had arrived, they fled returning to terror’s dark vigil. 


Fear suspends belief, breeding agnostic anger and contempt. We hide the word of Truth but will easily share our disbelief of it to increasing anger that creates co-dependencies and magnifies a trajectory of our implied and/or express accusations against God.  


On Good Friday at the foot of the cross the women experienced intense fear. Israel’s religious leaders on account of Jesus also feared for their place, position, and office; they were in a rage.  Their mutual support of each other exacerbated and emboldened contempt and conspiracy against God, his Christ, and his followers. 


Their rage peaked at Pilate’s scourging their “king” who presented him to the crowd in garments of humiliation, shame, and defeat, declaring, “Behold the man”. 


At the sight the crowd became infected with the same fear and anger as that of the “Jews”, giving voice to a new mantra, “Crucify him, crucify him!” At the cross, Jesus “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29b) was mocked throughout his death.


Today Mary Magdalene represents, apart from faith, our human tendency to sinful fear, possessing the potential to infect the church with anger, disillusion, and accusations that diminish the truth of Christ’s presence with his church in the NT epoch. The angelic young man, wearing a while stole preached the empty tomb, the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection and God’s vindication of his Son’s work on the cross; still fear and unbelief gripped the women. 


Even when Jesus was among his disciples we observe over bearing fear born of our sin nature. Jesus attempted to calm anxious Apostles threatened by a sea storm.  His presence and word was greeted with unbelief.  Jesus lamented, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40). 


In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene confronted by her still unrecognized resurrected Lord, accused Jesus of stealing his dead body. It is all her mind would allow; his promised Resurrection was not within the realm of possibility and so she disbelieved.  Then Jesus spoke her name, and by the Voice of the Spirit, faith was bestowed and received by the woman out of whom Jesus cast out seven demons. 


Were it not for the Spirit conveyed by Christ’s word in his resurrection, Jesus’ disciples were, for fear, on a path of rejecting their Lord in the new creation. Thomas, absent from Jesus’ appearance to the others, put fear’s infidelity this way, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place may finger into the mark of the nails and place my hand into his side, I will never believe (John 20:25b).  


Thomas’ emphatic denial and infidelity to unity in the Body of Christ expressed sin’s rage against what the mind will not accept by faith in the NT epoch. Human reason, despite all evidence to the contrary, in fear rejects, with God all things are possible. 


Tonight we are gathered in the NT’s vigil awaiting the Resurrection. Before encountering the empty tomb and angelic proclamation as fact and truth, the disciples had been on a vigil in dread of Pharisaic dominion supported by secular cohorts.  Like us tonight, the first disciples gathered in the dark of an old Sabbath night.  The disciples were engaged in a vigil of death awaiting the final leg of their journey to commit Jesus’ body to the grave.  


Jesus’ body was surely in an advancing state of rot. Lazarus on the fourth day of death was considered fully rotted.  In Jesus’ tomb the community anticipated participating in last rites.  It was important that the body be perfumed not only to honor the deceased, but also to spare those attending the service in the tomb the stench of death. 


A death vigil is not our Christian mentality in this gathering. We have heard in Mark’s fuller termination both law and gospel, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (16:16a).  By the power of the resurrected Word with us it is given for us to believe and be saved.  This is the received faith of the NT church to the end of time. 


On this night’s vigil, the Lord with us, we know that the forces of darkness always fall back before the dominion of the Light (Jn. 18:6). By the Light of Christ we approach the empty tomb in the only way that overcomes what reason finds impossible to accept; by faith bestowed in the word of Truth and Spirit and so by faith receives God’s promise of eternal Life from death.


Genesis records of Abraham’s aged wife, “the way of women had ceased to be with Sarah” (18:11b).  Sarah’s womb was no better than a grave out of which life does not issue.  Still the Lord promised a child from Sarah; she mocked the Lord.  When confronted by God, Sarah denied her laughter, “for she was afraid” (v.15b) in unbelief. 


Within the year Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the “beloved son” of Abraham’s faith, begotten from above out of a dead womb. So Jesus is promised Seed from above, who by his Passion falls into the grave to germinated new life from death.  By Abraham’s faith we are reckoned righteous and by the light of God’s word we believe and discern our own resurrection Life in Christ without fear. 


Tonight the church stands vigil, awaiting the Sun’s rising of our Light who is the Truth that God’s promises are sure, dispelling all fear, anger, and dark recriminations. Amen.




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Sermon - 3/30/18
2018.04.06 19:10:19

GOOD FRIDAY (Chief Service)/B (2018): Jn. 18:1-11


Sword,         Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)  So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” 


Today we are in the Garden of Gethsemane. St. John also associates the place where Jesus was crucified and buried with another garden, his burial place (19:41).  What are we to make of these florid markers? 


First, let’s digress to observe that in Easter season, secular Hollywood is wont to bring out its latest Bible movie; “The Ten Commandments”, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, “The Robe”, “Ben Hur”, “Jesus of Nazareth”, “The Passion of The Christ”, and “Killing Jesus” spring to mind. Movie people find in the Bible and especially in the accounts of Jesus’ life a rich source of drama, pathos, story, and romance. 


Scripture as entertainment is problematic. At best such films, are misleading of the Christian faith, and at worst denude Jesus of true theological significance.  One author asserts his offering renders historical fact of the killing of disputed philosopher; someone not too distinguishable from Socrates.


While Scripture of is engaging, the Reader will observe it imparts its message in straightforward fashion. There is no gratuitous attempt to excite the emotions.  This is obvious if one compares the today’s “Passion Reading” with the horrific film visuals of scourging and crucifixion in Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ”. 


Scripture is of the church; she is interested neither in critically questing with Albert Schweitzer after “The Historical Jesus” nor in discerning Jesus’ philosophy. Rather the church occupies herself with Jesus’ identity and significance as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Jesus out of heaven, born, crucified, and raised is the apex and efficient lens through which all history is comprehended. 


Now returning to the Garden of Gethsemane we ask, what significance would the church have us take from St. John’s bracketing garden markers of Jesus’ crucifixion and place of death?


Scripture throughout is semantically connected; by its words Scripture is its own interpreter. Today’s NT garden markers give us pause to reflect on Adam and Eve in Eden.  Man and woman in the first creation were its apex.  Adam was given to tend and guard the Garden (Gen. 2:15); a gardener, caretaker of sort in the place of man’s communion with God. 


By sin Adam, no longer true man or son, was disqualified. Disobedience utterly marred being in the “image and likeness” of his Creator.  God’s gospel promise of a Seed who would crush the Adversary (3:15) implied God’s design for a future new creation and restored place for relations of God with man. 


Thus in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus begins his Passion leading to the cross. His death then leads to the garden on the other side into which Jesus, promised Seed, would fall into the ground (Jn. 12:24) and rise on the third day.  In the Resurrection Jesus is, not only new Adam, but also fructified eternal Temple, dwelling place of God with men; new Garden bursting with the stuff of Life, word and sacrament.


Jesus’ assigned vocation is that of Gardener who utterly gives of his scored body and heart, source of our watering in the HS and nourishment to be with him one bread in the new creation. In all this the church is bride and helpmate with her gardening Spouse for producing much fruit by his germinating death and resurrection. 


We like Simon Peter often get out ahead of Jesus, the tender and guardian in the Garden. Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane stepped out from the purposes of Jesus’ sacrificial intention to his Father’s will.  We believe our own “good” intentions independent of the Jesus’s word is useful in advancing the ends of God in the Garden. 


Instead our ways always hinder God’s purposes. When the church employs a worldly sword, forged by the might of men, Jesus must intervene to rescue through correctives, as in today’s case, restoring Malchus’ mutilated ear that on another day he might hear Jesus as Voice and Sword of the Spirit. 


The church is taught the ways of her Lord. On the cross Jesus having learned the obedience of a true Son to be perfected in his given vocation (Heb. 5:8), to tend and guard God’s Garden from the Adversary for men.  


Christ crucified, was beaten to a plowshare for furrowing hard hearts. For our forgiveness he received a soldier’s spear into his heart that it be turned to a pruning hook for our tending in a Garden where our warfare toward God is ended (Isa. 2:3, 4).  Amen.




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Holy Week Schedule
2018.03.25 23:19:59
Please join us for worship during this special week of the year.  We always look forward to having visitors from the area, as well as those who are here from out-of-town. Some of our services will be co-hosted with Concordia Lutheran Church.
Holy (Maundy) Thursday, (7:30 p.m., March 29): Celebrant Pr. Mills, Preacher Pr. Tauscher
Good Friday (12 p.m., March 30): Grace chief service
Good Friday (7:30 p.m., March 30): Tenebrae service hosted by Concordia.
Easter Vigil (6 p.m., March 31): Co-hosted by Grace and Concordia
Easter Day (9 a.m., April 01): Grace Easter service


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Sermon - 3/25/18
2018.03.25 23:14:41

PALM-PASSION/B (2018): Jn. 12:12-19; Zech. 9:9-12; Phil. 2:5-11; Jn. 12:20-43.


Wheat,         “So these [Greeks] came to Philip… and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’” vv. 21-24. 


At the Greek request “to see” him, Jesus employs a parable, about a fallen grain of wheat, to explain his “hour” about to commence.  The signal to Jesus was the Greek validation of the Pharisee’s hatred, “Look, the world has gone after him” (Jn. 12:19b). 


On this beginning of Holy Week the church conflates the final Services in Lent; Jerusalem’s prophesied welcome of her king by Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud… ‘Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted… on a colt, the foal of a donkey’” (9:9), and our celebration of Jesus’ Passion in going to the cross.  


The Passover proclamation from the populace instilled among the Greeks, attending the holy festival, a desire to “behold”, i.e., “to see” the long prophesied triumphant Davidic king coming to his people. 


Now that Jesus knows the imminence of his death he teaches its meaning, his investiture into his kingdom by parable, the fallen Seed.  The parable will conclude an earlier sign, the feeding of 5,000 in the wilderness.  Surely Philip and Andrew would see to later catechize Jew and Greek alike. 


So too our Gospel invites us to seek Jesus coming to receptive hearts.  Yet incomprehension frustrated Jerusalem’s ebullient greeting, as Isaiah prophesied, “[God] has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart…” (Jn. 12:40). 


Jesus, explains the greeting of the Jews, Behold, your king is coming to you” and the Greek request to see Jesus”.  The visual both seek will be revealed in his death, which is to say, there is no proper hailing of Jesus apart from his nails. 


Sightedness is a function of receiving heaven’s Light.  Jesus said, “The Light is among you for a little which longer.  Walk while you have the Light, lest darkness overtake you” (v. 35a).  Thus the parable of the fallen Seed germinating in death and burial “sees” by faith, new Life in Christ crucified. 


By his work on the cross is judgment for and of the world; and casting Satan out for a figurative “1,000 years” (Rev. 20:2, 3) in order that the church’s mission might advance in these end times. 


By faith’s sight in the Light, we hail Jesus in greeting as he comes to us.  Jesus, God’s fallen and lifted Seed bears much fruit in drawing all people into his death and resurrection.  From such sight we observe two households: 


The place of Jesus Nativity, Bethlehem, meaning “house of bread”; and Jesus’ crucified body, the Father’s new dwelling place wherein Jesus’ zeal consumes him in perfect obedience to the Father’s will (Jn. 2:17; Ps. 69:9). 


The parable of the fallen Seed provides conclusion to feeding the 5,000; that Jesus is the Bread come down from heaven for men, (6:35).  It was Passover in the desert and lifting his eyes in communion with the Father Jesus saw an approaching crowd.  We note the correspondence with the Palm Sunday crowd of Jerusalem thronging their king and the Greeks desiring to see in Light.


In the desert Jesus tested Philip, “Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” (6:5b).  Philip did not know and Andrew could only mutter about a boy’s meager barley loaves and fish; but at the feeding’s end the Apostles collected twelve baskets of bread and fish representing the church’s abundance from Jesus that she preserves in ministry, the Things of heaven’s gifting. 


In today’s Gospel it is again Passover; Philip and Andrew convey the Greek desire “to see Jesus”.  He teaches them what the sight of him in his Passion will entail; a dying man, God’s germinating grain baked on the Altar of the cross for the forgiveness of sin, so that all people might be drawn to the sight, one loaf in his feeding from the Father’s NT House of Bread, the new Temple that Jesus would resurrect in three days (3:19).


The Jews of the OT temple rejected Jesus as their Bread of heaven and source of new Life with God.  Like the 5,000 and the grumbling ancient Israelites in the wilderness they were only interested in material bread from God’s visitation with men. 


When Pilate presented Jesus to the Jerusalem crowd, a scourged king wearing a crown of thorns, saying, “Behold the man!” (19:5), they changed their shouts of “Hosanna” to “Crucify him!” (v. 6).


They turned from the Light humbly revealed from Bethlehem and Jesus’ obedient zeal for the household of God’s fleshly dwelling with sinful men in death and resurrection.  The direct line within the inclusio of birth and death are magnified by all Jesus’ signs taught by the church with clarity, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (6:53) punctuated in sacramental counterpoint at her Supper, “Take, eat; this is my body…  Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  


Today, much as Pilate, I present Jesus to you in the full glory of his Passion, that you “behold the man”.  Many, as were the Jews, are repulsed at the sight and the gift of the church’ feeding in faith; still the Lord’s Supper instituted in the midst of Jesus’ Passion is what he says, our bread, meat, and drink in the new epoch of the new creation coming into being. 


By our NT Supper we have entered the end times, worshipping our Father in Truth and Spirit, which is to say, in word and Sacrament.  It is “in this manner that God loved the world” (Jn. 3:16).


Holy Week terminates at the last prayer of Holy Thursday’s vigil to celebrate Easter’s unitive Service.  The Triduum commences with Holy Thursday’s evening mass.  Here the church picks up the thread of her Easter Pascha with the food that prepares us for the Last Day and heaven’s Marriage Feast of the Lamb in the Resurrection. 


By our meal instituted for our journey on Holy Thursday Christ purifies us in union with his sacrificial flesh, and so presents us his spotless bride to the Father for the love of the Man; thus does God, behold the woman from out of the Man.  Amen. 




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Sermon - 3/18/18
2018.03.21 21:29:22

LENT5/B (2018): Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 5:1-10; Mk. 10:32-45.


Source,        For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins…  In the days of his flesh Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death...  Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” (vv. 1, 7-9). 


Unlike Aaron, Jesus’ high priesthood is unique, after the order of Melchizedek, Jerusalem’s ancient king. Yet Aaron held, and Jesus holds, a vocation common to all priests, to act on behalf of men, offering gifts and sacrifices toward God for sins. 


A prerequisite is that a priest must have empathy for sinful men. For the Aaronic priesthood this meant dealing gently with those ignorant and wayward because, like them, he also was a sinner who offered sacrifice for his own sins.


But Jesus is eternal Son of God, affirmed by the Father at his Baptism, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mk. 1:11).  Though a Son, Jesus following his baptism was un-sacrificed “Lamb of God” and un-crowned King of Israel. 


After his Baptism Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and ultimately the cross, the place of atoning self-sacrifice and fabrication of God’s new Temple in his Son’s flesh. At the same time, the cross was place of Jesus’ investiture into his kingdom.  The cross instantiated both; Jesus’ Davidic kingship in new Israel, and concluded (“It is finished” Jn. 19:30) his baptismal ordination as self-sacrificing High Priest.  


In today’s Gospel we see how Jesus, without sin, is nevertheless empathetic toward James and John in their enthusiasm over the promise of a resurrection from the dead (10:34c). Unlike Peter, who on an earlier occasion would have deterred Jesus from this destiny on the cross, James and John seem to anticipate Jesus’ glorious retribution against those who would put Jesus to death. 


James and John ask Jesus, that when he comes into his resurrected glory, one of them be seated as Secretary of State, and one Secretary of War.


Jesus does not scold, as he did Peter, his ambitious apostles; after all Jesus, is God’s Warrior (Dan. 10:12-14) on march to enter, next Sunday, and re-take Jerusalem captive to a traitorous “brood of vipers” (Mt. 3:7; 12:34; 23:33) in heaven’s warfare against God’s Adversary. 


Despite the self-aggrandizement of James and John, Jesus did not rebuke them; rather he was empathetic. He questioned and instructed them as to the cost of reuniting God’s kingdom of heaven and earth, and man’s dominion in it, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”(Mk. 10:38). 


When a king’s son is anointed his father’s successor there is a period of regency while the son is trained in the father’s rule and reign. From the time of Jesus’ birth, God was training his Son in the rigors of Lordship; a Servant-King who experienced his people’s suffering under sin and death.  God was shaping his warrior Son who would obtain victory by learning to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned…” (Isa. 40:2). 


Jesus’ entire earthly experience, from humble birth to ignominious death, was programmatic of his martial training in the way of the cross; suffering on behalf of men.


Herod attempted to assassinate the Babe, instead spilled the blood of the Holy Innocents. As a youth Jesus zealously absorbed Scripture’s salvation history of men suffering the wages of sin at his mother’s knee. 


From Jesus’ anointing by JB as Lamb of God and his march to Jerusalem, Jesus continually suffered: demonic attack; blasphemous abuse; attempts on his life; rejection and unbelief by those in charge of synagogue and temple; those falling away, unable to accept his hard sayings; to suffer soul separating fear in the Garden of Gethsemane at impending death; and finally suffer betrayal by Judas and Peter, and abandonment by all.   


In this way, Jesus “although a son… learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8) so that at his “hour” he would be prepared to receive a king’s crown and a priestly headdress for the sake of fragile men living in chaos, sin, and fear.  For the sake of men he offered himself as “once for all” sufficient Sacrifice atonement for sin. It is in this manner God loved the world (Jn. 3:16).


Having spent “the days of his flesh” (Heb. 5:7a) suffering and having “no place to lay his head” (Mt. 8:20), Jesus continually offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to God who saves from death.  


In fidelity to his Father’s love, Jesus crucified and risen entered heaven, offering to God his atoning blood to receive enthroned beside the Father, a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.  


What does it mean that Jesus, our High Priest, “became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (v. 9)?  First, it means, that as with James and John, you too have been baptized in a baptism of fire, receiving the HS in water and bloody Word from his crucified body for your purification; and that you too partake of the Cup that Jesus suffered, united with him in the Supper of his broken body and shed blood.


Jesus fully consumed the Cup of God’s wrath, and his Baptism concluded in handing-over the HS on the cross assures your partaking in blessing; empowering you to follow your Lord and intercessory High Priest. As you journey in this life you will engage suffering or suffering will engage you on account of your sin or the sin of the world that hates your fidelity to Christ. 


Your heavenly Father’s will, as it was for Jesus, is that you advance in sonship and daughterhood for reigning in his kingdom. The Kingdom comes by obedience; listening to the Father in Christ, true Torah of God; trusting him for all things and offering-up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears, to your High Priest who is in constant conversation with our Father.  Such is your obedience in faith. 


James was the church’s first apostolic martyr, John perhaps her last. At the time of our Gospel, these two did not comprehend true greatness in the Kingdom.  But by Christ’s teaching and God’s rigorous training to a priestly and servant office, we daily beseech the love of God in Christ who entered the abyss of death for the ransom of many from Satan’s thrall.  Amen. 




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Sermon - 3/14/18
2018.03.17 23:35:39

LENT4/B Midweek (2018): John 3:14:21


Manner,   For in this manner God loved the world.  And so [God] gave the Son— the only one— that who ever believes in him might not perish but rather might have eternal life. (v. 16)  


Most of you are used to the more familiar translation, “For God so love the world, that he gave his only Son…”  Furthermore, your Bible version probably assigns these words to Jesus in red letters; whereas following other authorities, I put these words on the lips of St. John the Evangelist.  Such are the pitfalls of biblical translation and consequent understanding. 


As interesting as some find grammatical questions, the pertinent point by either translation is that God’s love has come into the world in a particular manner reminiscent of the OT bronze serpent lifted in the desert.  God’s love comes not in an amorphous, general way; rather in a specific way, the gift of Jesus crucified for our new begetting in water and Spirit, through Holy Baptism. 


Lutherans, Rome, and the Eastern Orthodox who have the woof and warp of our being in the church’s sacraments readily accept that Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus teaches NT Baptism. 


Yet the word “baptism” is not specifically employed in the conversation so that those who deny the church’s sacramental identity take exception, denying that NT Baptism is even in the picture of Jesus’ teaching Nicodemus. 


Nicodemus came to Jesus in darkness, literally and figuratively.  Through the entire conversation he failed to comprehend a word that Jesus taught.  Nicodemus was only able to hear the nonsense of a second physical birth by re-entry into the womb of one’s human mother.  Jesus spoke the words Nicodemus heard holding a different content from what Nicodemus understood, i.e., not being physically “born again”, but receiving a new spiritual “begetting from above”. 


Both men were teachers of Torah; one an expositor of Sinai’s tablets and its Law of consequences; and Jesus the living Torah word of God and expositor of its true meaning.  The two Jewish theologians were talking past each other.


Nicodemus without ever grasping the spiritual dimension of what Jesus was teaching, inquired about the impossibility of being physically “born again”; “How can these things take place?” (v. 9).  Jesus responded incredulously, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?” (v. 10).  


Jesus throws Nicodemus a lifeline from Scripture to explain God’s new spiritual begetting; that salvation comes to all by looking in faith upon God’s gift as did those in ancient Israel who looked upon the raised bronze serpent and were saved. 


Some will accept the gift of faith as hand in glove with NT Baptism delivered from Jesus raised on the cross; others will inexplicably refuse the gift, either believing that faith is of themselves, or that salvation is obtainable another way.  


Nicodemus apparently returned to the Sanhedrin and his synagogue none the wiser for hearing Jesus’ teaching, the Voice of the HS to be given in a new begetting in blood and water.    


Just as Nicodemus failed to rightly hear the “heavenly things” taught by Jesus, so also within broader Christendom we talk past each other, seemingly the rule than the exception.  A plethora of false teachings and schemas abound in the broader Church and it is a conundrum over which wars have been fought and blood spilt in the name of Christ. 


Since the 16th century Reformation the number of sectarian and heretical bodies and congregations have grown exponentially.  Among this multiplicity of false teachings has arisen a miasma of confusion; many despair of knowing the Truth;


“How can we know the Truth without a teacher and how can we trust our teachers”; and “if we doubt our teachers perhaps doctrinal faith is not really important as long as we “love” Jesus?”;  and “without correct doctrine of Christ, which “Jesus” should we love? (2 Cor. 11:4)”.  There are 1,001 denominational differences each of which point a recriminating finger at the remaining 1,000.   


Among Christians there is a doctrinal division reminiscent of Nicodemus’ error thinking that Jesus advocated a second physical birth.  This error began early on in the church, that by Rev. 20:1-6 there would in the end-times be two literal physical resurrections.  This was known Chiliasm or “Dispensational pre-millennialism”. 


Modernly this teaching has become popular again especially among American neo-evangelicals.  “Pre-millennialism” made its resurgence in the church through the radical reformers of the 16th century.  The Lutheran’s recognized the old error for what it was, “Our church’s also condemn those who are spreading certain Jewish opinions that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed” (Augsburg Confession XVII:5). 


Lutherans, rather hold to a figurative non-dispensational millennium, we call “amillennialism”, recognizing that with the cross and resurrection the end-time is not future, it is now, and so the nature of God’s kingdom is radically different than what is expected by Pre-millennial errorists. 


Don’t worry; we will not presently delve further into the distinctions; we have not the time.  But if you have any exposure at all, as most Lutherans, to “Christian radio or TV” you probably have a general idea of what is dominantly taught in dispensational pre-millennial circles. 


So we ask, are the differences of these variant doctrines significant?  Is it really important whether Christians are waiting for a future 1,000-year reign of Christ; or are we already experiencing it? 


To coin a phrase from Mr. Obama, “elections have consequences” and like the significance of Jesus employing the bronze serpent to teach NT Baptism, so also a correct or wrong belief of Scripture on the point of Revelation’s two resurrections has consequences. 


Instruction in the church’s orthodox and catholic faith is not the usual function of a Sermon in the Divine Service.  Rather correct doctrine is assumed from your catechism and invitation to Eucharist.  


You have called your Pastor to preach and administer the church’s sacramental treasure out of her store, and be apt to teach the Truth.  Consider then, should time permit in busy lives, your participation in the congregation’s Bible Study to explore that, which is not proclamation but in advancing in the finer points of the Christian faith. 


In the meantime think of the church’s body of doctrine consisting as a wound ball of multiple strings all coordinate with and supportive, one of the other.  Each string unwinds to the central doctrine of the Christian faith to locate the one holy catholic and apostolic faith, the Truth.     


Last Sunday we tugged on the string of “Baptism”, finding its terminus and identifying our central Christian tenant: God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8, 9), and discerning that the core of our faith is not a doctrine at all; rather the crucified person of Christ and in the Resurrection eucharistically lifted-up among his people.


As for Grace Lutheran, in a coming Bible Study, will pull on the string labeled, “End-Times”, examining the competing claims of pre-millennials and amillennials to discern how each defines its terminus; and in this manner apprehend true doctrine.  Only one is correct, and the one we elect (to which we lift our eyes) is as consequential for us as what was discerned by those bitten in the desert, God’s gracious love.  Amen. 




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Sermon - 3/4/18
2018.03.07 19:44:04

LENT3/B (2018): Ex. 20:1-17; 1 Cor. 1:18-31; John 2:13:25


Zeal,              [Jesus] told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”  His disciples remembered [after the Resurrection] that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me” vv. 16, 17). 


Last Sunday we pondered the divine necessity that Jesus suffer and die at the hands of the Jewish establishment (Mk. 8:31); and on Wednesday our Sermon sought to make sense of Paul’s exhortation that Christians “rejoice in our sufferings” (Rom. 5:3). 


The conclusion for sufferings necessity and our rejoicing in them was found in Daniel’s prophesy that one like a son of man came in the clouds of heaven and was presented to the Ancient of Days. In the glory of Jesus’ lifting on the cross for the sin of the world the Father has been glorified and the Son given dominion, glory, and a kingdom that he shares with his saints (Dan. 7:13, 14, 22).


As we have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection we are remade like him, Son and Image of God. The Son of Man’s enthronement scene in Daniel begins the revelation leading to heaven’s marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7, 9), a foretaste in which we participate each Lord’s Day and festival day, in his kingdom hidden under Christ’s broken Body and Cup of our Supper. 


Of all the weddings at which I have officiated and witnessed for the church, invariably St. Paul’s Ephesians comment is announced, “This mystery [of marriage] is profound… it refers to Christ and the church” (5:32).  Of course at the moment it is quite impossible for the participants to fully comprehend the spiritual realities.  A wedding after all is fraught with intense excitement and high levels of absorption especially of the man for the woman and visa versa. 


Now in Lent we have put behind us the world’s Mardi Gras and Carnival excesses, having enter this season of repentance. The church reflections on sin and the One who purifies us from sin, beginning with the wedding of the first man and woman. 


We might well imagine the event; God delivered to the man an exquisitely beautiful woman; like Adam she too was made in the image of God; not only that, she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, perfectly fit as help-mate, one flesh together. Adam coming out of his sleep would have trembled, bedazzled at God’s gift for him to love, honor, cherish. 


The woman, new to the Garden, would have been overcome at first sight of the man, like her yet not the same, her equal but different, her lord-protector and teacher in the ways of God. Modestly she would have trembled, consenting to love, honor, and obey the man from whom she came; both of them pledging their troth.  


With sin’s violation things turned ugly. The woman was no long of a piece with her husband, rather she desiring his office and authority was frustrated by his physicality; and the man Satan-like became the woman’s accuser before God. 


What was once union in God’s image was now competitive and accommodative separation of less than loving concupiscent lust and conceptions. If love, cherish, honor, obedience, and purity were to be restored, God must again be the giver. 


Our OT Reading, the giving of the Ten Commandments, is likewise understood in the context of marriage; but now Moses is, as it were, father of the bride and best man mediating for the parties, God and his intended, Israel.


In time Israel lost even the physical attractiveness of Adam and Eve. Corporate Israel was slave in the house of Pharaoh, treated no better than a rented mule.  Unloved, Israel became a churlish shrew, ungrateful and wont to grumble at the least kindness. 


God, at the cost of Egyptian first-born, recued Israel in his Passover grace through a purifying baptism in the Red Sea to Mt. Sinai. He called Moses to deliver his marriage proposal to Israel; declaring that he had brought them to himself as on eagle’s wings; if they would obey him and be faithful to his covenant they would be his treasured possession and be to him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:3-6). 


Moses delivered the proposal; Israel accepted (v. 8). Moses, over three days, consecrated the people to their promise and they cleansed their garments in water remaining chaste for the upcoming union to occur at the foot of the mountain.


The Lord descended in a passionate fire and the mountain “trembled”. God spoke, revealing himself, directly to the bride.  He is the only God, there is none other, therefore his people should comprehend this wisdom, and “have no other gods” and in keeping his commands express his love in the world. 


Of the second table they should not murder, because God is not like Satan, “a murderer from the beginning… [having] nothing to do with the truth” (Jn. 8:44); they must not commit adultery because God is their steadfast spouse; they are not to steal which is foolishness as everything in heaven and earth is the Lord’s and so also theirs; they are not to bear false testimony, for the Lord is the Truth, and their neighbor is their brother; they are not to covet for the Lord gives according to his wisdom and they to discern it.  


These words of self-revelation were the last God spoke directly to Israel. The people discerned God’s holiness, and their lack; the people “trembled” (Ex. 20:18).  Moses went up the mountain and wrote the terms of the marriage covenant.  When Moses came down the people hearing the words again consented, accepting God to be their Lord (24:3, 7). 


An altar was built at the foot of Sinai, mutual promises were confirmed in the sacrificial blood of oxen for burnt and peace offerings. Half the blood was thrown on the altar of God’s presence.  Then the written Book of The Covenant was read to the people; and again they gave consent.  Then the remaining blood was thrown on the people uniting them in law with their God. 


The people thus sacrificially sprinkled with the blood of the covenant, Israel’s tribal representatives come before God on the mountain where they participated in a wedding feast. They beheld God and he did not lay his hand on them; they ate and drank in his presence (24:9-11). 


This then was the beginning of the OT and the tabernacle/temple cultus providing, by grace a marginally more harmonious relation under the law, than relations between Adam and Eve.


In John’s Gospel, the so-called “Cleansing of The Temple”, is Jesus’ first public act and follows on, part and parcel with having changed OT water for purification rites into wedding wine at Cana. Jesus is in Jerusalem, not to repristinate the old temple and its cultus, but to give notice that its function for purity of the people under the old covenant has been fulfilled. 


With the arrival of Jesus in the temple following the sign of changing water to wedding wine, temple termination as God’s house was imminent, suggested by the prophesy of Malachi “[S]uddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his temple… And he will purify…” (3:1-3).   


Thus the post-resurrection remembrance of Jesus whipping animal-vendors from the temple comprehends Ps. 69, as Jesus’ “Zeal for [his Father’s] house [that will] consume [him]” (v. 9) a zeal fulfilled in his body on the cross, affirmed by God in the Resurrection. 


It is in the new temple of Jesus’ singular sacrifice that God’s new Israel has her new cleansing and purity. Jesus is new Israel’s Pascal Lamb by whose shed blood, death passes us over, our sins forgiven, and from whose side his church receives the Stuff of our purification; the water and blood issued from his side and the HS handed-over for the Baptized. 


We of course are a bride in sin every bit as ugly and lusting as disobedient Eve, and as grumbling Israel arriving at Mt. Sinai. But now we have a new nuptial chamber, superior in every way, to the Old Covenant tabernacle that but foreshadowed God’s new dwelling with men in Christ. 


St. Paul says that, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise… what is weak… to shame the strong… what is low and despised in the world… And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Cor. 1:27-31).  Love by its nature is sacrificial toward the beloved; so it is no surprise that God, who is love (1 John 4:8), has his being and dwelling in the flesh of Jesus, Son of Man who has died for us. 


For love we, an unworthy bride, are wed in Christ. In a pre-baptismal instruction St. John Chrysostom puts Jesus’ “zeal” for his Father’s house this way, “He does not have her come to him as his bride because he has longed for her comeliness, or her beauty, or the bloom of her body. On the contrary, the bride he has brought into the nuptial chamber is deformed and ugly, thoroughly and shamefully sordid, and, practically, wallowing in the very mire of her sins.” 


On the cross love is revealed, the wisdom of God, a stumbling block for Jew and foolishness to Greeks. We observe that humans communicate with those they love by touch.  It is especially so in the nuptial chamber of God’s house where we receive our new purification of Cana’s wine by Baptism in the HS, in the water and blood of our crucified Lord.  In this sacrifice we are given to participate in the reign of God. 


Purified by Baptism we are united with Christ, our Adam. He presents us spotless in his flesh Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day to the Ancient of Days; and with him we share his dominion, glory, and a kingdom as we come to the Lord’s Table, our foretaste of heaven’s marriage feast of the Lamb in the new creation.  Amen.  




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Sermon - 2/28/18
2018.03.03 23:24:20

LENT2/B Midweek (2018): Rom. 5:1-11 


Sufferings,             [W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (vv. 3-5). 


In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus taught, “the Son of Man must suffer” (Mk. 8:31).  Peter was offended, earning him a strong rebuke from the Lord.  By our Epistle Reading Paul posits suffering to be essential in the Christian life, indeed cause for our rejoicing. 


Does this make sense; if you are like me many of your prayers to God seek avoidance or relief from suffering in this world.  As we observed Sunday suffering is radically counter intuitive to all men.  After all, as Jesus approached the cross in Gethsemane, he prayed that God might yet take from him the cup of suffering; but nevertheless, his Father’s will be done. 


Focusing “on the things of man” (v. 33) our sufferings in themselves don’t make sense.  Oh yes, we understand the necessity that Jesus suffered in our place, a sacrificial expiation for sin; we might even accept the propriety of suffering by others (after all, it probably serves them right for something they did); but not so much for us. 


When it comes down to it, we are wont to put as much distance as possible between the cross and ourselves.  The cross is so counter intuitive that Peter, instructed in the necessity, denied Jesus and ran for the hills rather than be associated with his bleeding Lord at the hands of religious and secular authorities.


Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer was answered, at least the part, that the Father’s “will be done”; and so by obedient submission Jesus was affirmed as from before the foundation of the world, “to the things of God” (v. 33).  The author of Hebrews says of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Heb. 12:2). 


All this brings us to St. Paul’s authentic Christian life, a baptismal life, if you will, that rejoices in sufferings and embraces our crosses (Mk. 8:34).  There is a skin medication being advertised that speaks well to the church’s theology of the cross; that human beings “communicate by touch with those we love.”   


The Baptized comprehend the truth of this insight in the church’s sacraments, “the things of God”.  We don’t merely hear about God in the abstract and what he has done for us in Christ 2,000 years ago; rather Baptized hearers of God’s word are invited and drawn into what he is doing now, come to us in the physicality of God’s touch and communion with brothers and sisters in the Holy Supper.  Liturgically, this is why before receiving Eucharist we “exchange the peace”, what the ancient church called a “holy kiss”. 


Touch is love’s human reality, the Stuff of God’s love, Jesus’ body and blood given for the forgiveness of sin and Life; “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53).


Christians do not endure sufferings gratuitously, that would be foolish and probably sinful.  Love, as we observed Sunday in its nature, is sacrificial.  For love’s sake we are invited, with St. Thomas, to fidelity in the church of the Resurrection’s worship, to touch, taking-into ourselves the interior of Jesus’ wounds sacrificially suffered for love of us. 


Far from gratuitous, our sufferings in this world are associated baptismally with Jesus’ love of the Father’s will.  To what then is Paul referring by our “joyous sufferings”, if not that in our Eucharistic habitus, we abide in Jesus, learning the endurance of the cross to the end; of God shaping us in the waters of the HS being made new men and women of a divine character defined by the sacrificial love of Christ.  This is the Christian hope, worked in us, of which we are not ashamed. 


Jesus speaks of his sufferings as “Son of Man” in association with his saints embracing our crosses by which we comprehend Daniel’s prophesy, “[A]nd behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom…  [A]nd judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom (Daniel 7:13, 14a, 22b). 


As we remain faithful to the “things of God”, our baptismal cleansing and death to self, and to the church’s Eucharistic Life, we have the certain hope that even now we are being presented to the Ancient of Days for a cruciform dominion in the world, and so are “seated [as it where with the Son of Man] at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2b).  Amen.




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Sermon - 2/25/18
2018.02.27 14:24:20

LENT2/B (2018): Gen. 17:1-7, 15, 16; Rom. 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38  


Teach,          And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And he said this plainly (vv. 31, 32). 


Last Sunday Jesus was baptized to be the “Aqedah of Isaac”, volunteering to be God’s Suffering Servant in place of Israel.  Jesus is the “provision” God made for Abraham and his offspring forever; Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb in place of Isaac on the altar of Mt. Moriah (Gen. 22). 


Following Jesus’ Baptism the HS drove him into the wilderness. There he would confront Satan, the adversary of God, not only as new Israel and only Son, but true Son of Man in whom new humanity is presented to God (Dan. 7:13, 14, 22, 26). 


For 40 days in the desert it was training day for Jesus. He trusted in God for all.  Jesus acquitted himself against satanic temptations urging him to seek another “glory” than God’s will of sacrifice and privation in this world that Satan claimed as his own. 


Jesus’ self-mortification in the desert resulted in victory and Satan being cast out. In the background of Jesus’ temptations is the picture of new Eden coming out of a watered and blooming desert and new Temple worship in God’s presence.  Angels with the wild animals, portending heaven’s reunion with the beastly heart of sinful men, refreshes Jesus. 


After 40 days Jesus departed his desert foothold in the world, a conquering warrior proceeding to proclaim the gospel’s reign of God, beginning in Galilee, the outer reaches of Israel’s Promised Land.


Today we are with Jesus, his apostles and disciples in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, Gentile territory. It was time that Jesus, their Teacher, administer an examination.  He wanted to know what they learned of their mission and his Torah teaching?  In Jesus’ school there is only one subject, of which he inquired, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mk. 8:29).


Don’t you love it when a teacher’s question hints at the answer? Jesus did not exactly employ the Greek name for YHWH, “ego eimi”, but there is its hint on Jesus’ lips, “I am”.  The crowds think Jesus is a prophet, and of course he is, but that is not adequate, he is more.


In addition to Jesus’ Torah teaching, consider what his student-disciples had learned by their martial experience with Jesus. From the very beginning, part and parcel of Jesus’ proclamation was his relentless attack on Satan’s kingdom, exorcizing demons left and right, reclaiming God’s rule in the world. 


Not only does Jesus command the departure of demons; he calmed the chaos of wind and wave gone wild; taught Scripture with authority against erring scribes; healed the human wreckage of a demon possessed world; reminiscent of a new exodus in-gathering in the wilderness he fed 5000 Jews and 4000 Gentiles with the bread of angels for a single communion coming into being; and trod the abyss, the abode of demons.


Finally, before administering his midterm exam, the disciples would have done well to call to mind Jesus’ last healing. At Bethsaida a blind man was brought to Jesus for healing.  Jesus spat, applying wetness to the man’s eyes, laid hands and asked him, “Do you see anything?”  Rather than a full restoration, the man saw only partially and unclearly.  Again Jesus touched to open the man’s eyes.  This time sight was fully restored (Mk. 8:22 ff.). 


Now Jesus asked his student-disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  The Apostles were silent.  Peter pipes up, “You are the Christ” (v. 29b).  From Peter’s rudimentary confession Jesus advanced the class to, “Messiah 102”, “[beginning] to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”


How could this be! In prophetic expectation, the “Christ” would glorify God by aligning himself with the temple priesthood to rid Israel of its oppressors, especially Rome.  Anything less must be seen as a defeat for God, a satanic victory. 


Within the band of apostles, a very real thought insinuated, expressed by Peter’s rebuke, that Jesus was a false-messiah, doing the work of Beelzebul as claimed by the scribes (Mk. 3:22 ff.)


Peter and the apostles are on faith’s edge, a tipping point. Jesus in turn rebuked Peter as the real agent of Satan.  Peter represented not only the apostolic college, first among equals for his confession, but by his tendency to wild swings from faith to apostasy and denial we discern that he is an apostle most like us.  So far “Messiah 102” did not have the same auspicious beginning as “Messiah 101”.


Still the class would soon discern the meaning of the Blind Man of Bethsaida’s healing; that God enlightens by stages. You and I do not come to this place of Presence once only to go our own way.  If we are to set our “minds on the things of God and not the things of man” (v. 33) we will continually advance in the Way from faith to faith, stage to stage, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day.


Why? Because everything about “the things of God” and the Way of Jesus is counter intuitive to whom we are in sin.  Jesus in an act of new creation watered the blind man’s eyes corrupted into the dirt from which he came.  The power of Jesus’ word must always be applied, which is to say, we have our abode and advance “in the Word” as the means of God’s grace. 


Our true enemies are not so much the corrupted things and conditions of the world, but our enemies are God’s enemies: rulers, powers, authorities, dominions, angels, and authorities (Rom. 8:38; Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 3:22) who rage against God and his Christ (Ps. 2:1, 2).


Yet, intuitively, in sin, we are horrified at God’s battle march to the cross; even more, our heart’s desire and instinct is to flee from our Captain and his invitation to follow him to it.


Jesus warns against being scandalized by his cross, the new Temple of his crucified body, and his association with his priesthood of the Baptized, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8:35).


Jesus instructs us about the warfare into which we are joined. We are as modern day “first responders”.  Love, by definition is sacrificial and it is the love of God in Christ for a lost and dying world by which God’s enemies are defeated.  When all around you are terrorized, running from a burning building, from schoolhouse carnage, or other evil; the Baptized run to the sound of the battle and its hail of bullets. 


A person who flees imminent conflict presents his back, an undefended target; but by confronting the enemy there is life in victory or God’s glory in the same death of our Captain.


Jesus taught Peter and the disciples the meaning of his messianic kingship for cosmic battle. Jesus is God’s war Lord.  At God’s word Satan is defeated through the sacrifice of Christ bound on the cross. 


We, baptized into his death and resurrection, against every human instinct are daily called to accept the scandal of his crucifixion and embrace our crosses, that to the world seems shameful defeat.


We are tempted to flee to another “glory” that would otherwise preserve our corrupted flesh, but in faith instilled and strengthened by stages we trust in the Lord and deny ourselves, continuing to move toward the place of conflagration.  


The Baptized run in the direction of our crucified God and Lord, the Son of Man in whom we have judgment for our life in his flesh from the Altar. Amen. 




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Lent & Easter Week Schedule
2018.02.21 23:14:44

Come worship with us during Lent and Easter week. We look forward to having visitors. Some of the services will be joint services with Concordia Lutheran. Here's the schedule:

Ash Wednesday Mass (7:30 p.m., Feb. 14): Corporate confession and individual absolutions
Midweek 1 (7:30 p.m., Feb. 21): Hosted by Concordia 
Midweek 2 (7:30 p.m., Feb. 28): Vespers service hosted by Grace
Midweek 3 (7:30 p.m., March 07): Hosted by Concordia 
Midweek 4 (7:30 p.m., March 14): Vespers service hosted by Grace
Midweek 5 (7:30 p.m., March 21): Hosted by Concordia
Holy (Maundy) Thursday, (7:30 p.m., March 29): Celebrant Pr. Mills, Preacher Pr. Tauscher
Good Friday (12 p.m., March 30): Grace chief service
Good Friday (7:30 p.m., March 30): Tenebrae service hosted by Concordia.
Easter Vigil (6 p.m., March 31): Co-hosted by Grace and Concordia
Easter Day (9 a.m., April 01): Grace Easter service


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Sermon - 2/18/18
2018.02.21 23:13:20

LENT1/B (2018): Gen. 22:1-18; James 1:12-18; Mark 1:9-15


Offering,     And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!”  And he said, “Here am I, my son.”  He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (v. 7) 


Christians know the answer to Isaac’s question. This is arguably the most poignant of OT passages.  Bible translations label the Reading differently, “Abraham Commanded to Offer Isaac-KJV”, “Abraham’s Sacrifice-NJB”, “Abraham’s Ultimate Obedience-NKJV”, and “The Sacrifice of Isaac-ESV”.  All place emphasize on Abraham toward God.  


Jewish interpreters however focus, not on Abraham’s faith, but on Isaac’s voluntary acceptance of his father’s will, designating the passage, the “Aqedah”, “the Binding of Isaac”. 


In today’s Gospel, following Jesus’ rising from the waters of the Jordan, the HS immediately cast Jesus into the wilderness. Thus began Jesus’, and now his church’s journey to Passion and cross. 


Jesus’ Baptism and crucifixion accords well in terms of Isaac’s “Aqedah”; Jesus is God’s obedient Son in whom he is well pleased.  Jesus at Baptism and again at Gethsemane voluntarily accepts his sacrificial binding as Suffering Servant and Lamb of God, answering Isaac’s pregnant question, “Behold, the fire (of the HS) and the wood (of the cross), but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”  


Isaac is the first singular man whom God would chastise, and so is prototype of Jesus, God’s Lamb led to slaughter as fulfillment of the Jewish Passover, by whose sprinkled blood death passes us over.


James the brother of the Lord distinguishes divine “testing” from that of “temptation”. Satan and our fleshly nature conspire to internally tempt us to sin; God, on the other hand, tempts no one, yet permits our being tested by worldly external conditions. 


Of trials and testing Scripture teaches, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:5, 6). 


Jesus’ Baptism begins the new age that replaces the old aeon. It is a sea change and in it we are given to discern God’s “wisdom” (James 1:5), that Jesus is the human instrument of God who is alone worthy to oppose Satan’s claim of dominion and usher-in the new creation.   


Jesus, resurrected from the Jordan, caused heaven to be ripped open, that the hovering HS would descend on him. This event was the new creation’s beginning, the Father declaring, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”.  The union of Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man baptized in water and Spirit, irrevocably reunited heaven and earth after ages of distance buffered by layers of law and animal sacrifices. 


Jesus’ baptism is reminiscent of the first creation; Jesus is word of God infused into the chaotic, formless watery void, arose to receive the HS to be true man for God in the world. Immediately the Spirit cast Jesus into the wilderness as God’s champion against the Adversary claiming a bogus dominion in the world. 


But it was to Adam and Eve; man, as “son of God” (Luke 3:38b), not an angel, to whom God accorded dominion and rule on earth.  With the fall of Adam and Eve devils pretend to possess God’s authority in the world (Gen. 4:5, 6; Luke 4:5). 


Like ancient Israel, whom God also called “son of God” (Ex. 4:22, 23), Jesus reprised their forty years journey, spending forty days in the wilderness with God apart from the world.  In Baptism Jesus entered his Office of sonship, to be new Israel in place of ancient Israel who repeatedly failed to be God’s true son and servant. 


Jesus’ time in the wilderness was “training day”, boot camp in privation and testing in the Spirit. Unlike Sts. Matthew and Luke, Mark’s Gospel does not iterate the particular temptations experienced by Jesus.  It is implicit that Jesus is victorious over Satan by steadfastness of Word in asserting his Father’s rule and reign in the world, proving himself to be the man stronger than Satan (Mt. 12:29).  


Mark records Jesus with wild animals in the desert and being served by angels. The wilderness has become new Eden restored in Jesus, new Adam and Garden tender. 


Jesus departs from out of the wilderness into the world after having engaged and defeated the Adversary. Upon JB’s arrest Jesus immediately announces the dominion of man for God in the world, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15).


The new aeon of the new creation has begun advanceing to the place of God’s complete victory, the “Aqedah” of Jesus lifted on the cross and giving over of the HS for man’s begetting from above.  Man, for the first time since the Fall, now receives Life freely extended from the cross. 


In Baptism Life is fully received once as gift. There is no question of earning status as child of God; still as with all weanings there entails process, our training or testing into a son’s office. 


Christians are to discern God’s wisdom of the “new Eden” from that which is truly the world’s “wilderness”. Against all appearances our “new Eden” is the place where we experience God’s chastisement in making us like his only Son.  As Jesus put it, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20b).  But in this new Eden with Jesus, we continue to the goal, participating in the church’s Eucharistic wilderness feedings (Mk 6:30 ff., and 8:1 ff.).    


If you doubt our wilderness walk in the world, you need only look to the place of God’s completed victory over Satan at the cross. Our Lenten journey advances in military march (Rev. 7:5-8) following Jesus’ forty days to the most abandoned and desolate place of God’s old creation and its termination, the “Aqedah” of Good Friday. 


There Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk. 15:34).  It is precisely in the crucified body of the one man, bound on the Altar of the cross’ wood where he is drained of Life’s blood and the HS’s watering for men. 


If Jesus’ binding on the cross reveals the end of the old creation; more importantly, it is the substance of our participation in God’s will and reign in the world restored by the sacrificial binding of men to God in Abrahamic faith.


In these forty days of Lent we are being formed under God’s cruciform reign and rule in Christ. God chastised Jesus not only for the sin of the world but also for our formation, that we might “remain steadfast under trial, for when [we have] stood the test [we] will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). 


This then is the “wisdom of God”, that in Christ we are cast out of the world into our new Eden with Christ.  To all the world, our sojourn appears as a place to be avoided.  But for the Church it is the place where we find the presence of God who daily reforms us into the likeness of his beloved Son.


In Christ we are eucharistically nourished from strength to strength to withstand Satan’s false claim of rule enticing our still weak of flesh. Thus God permits testing in this world for our continued binding to Christ, the one faithful man.  In Christ, we are given a faith like that of Abraham that looks to a glorious resurrection in spotless flesh before God.  Amen.




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Sermon - 2/14/18
2018.02.17 14:38:00

LENT-ASH WED./ABC (2018): Joel 2:12-19; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.


Place,            “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place  [W]hen you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place…” (NKJV vv. 6, 17).


Jesus teaches his disciples how we are to pray and fast.  The church employs this Reading at the beginning of Lent and in doing so exhibits peculiar insight.  We are now fully descended from the height of Sunday’s revelation on the Mt. of Transfiguration.  Once again we are on journey with Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death, the Way of the cross.    


Jesus admonishes his followers against showy displays of personal piety; yet our Ash Wednesday penitential celebration takes its name precisely from a ritual of imposing ashes designed to mar our appearance in the sight of others.    


The seeming contradiction is pure irony, driving those with legalist mentalities “round the bend”, and reminding us that in the law/grace divide of God’s word, Jesus is not with his church to command a new moral code; rather religious double-mindedness is always to be avoided. 


In working with translations it is occasionally necessary to make adjusting corrections.  Rather than the ESV Gospel text (printed in your Service bulletin) it is better to employ the language of the NKJV, i.e., Christians don’t pray or fast “privately”, “secretly”, or “in secret” apart from others; rather we pray in a place, specifically “in the secret place” of the Father.


Christian prayer is never an individual affair, even in personal devotions, we are always in communion with brothers and sisters oriented toward the Church’s altar, her Most Holy Place of physical and dogmatic “real presence” of God in Christ. 


Thus Jesus taught the plurality of prayer fellowship: Our Father… give usour bread… forgive us  as we forgive…  trespass against us  deliver us.”  As sons and daughters of the Most High God we pray according to our new identity in Christ, a baptized communion in Eucharistic unity.


In liturgical context of word and sacrament, our “secret place” is in the Body of Christ, the NT Temple (Jn. 2:21).  In this “place” it is quite impossible for repentant believers in union with the sacrificial flesh of Christ to publically parade or boast of any individual piety. 


Some of you may be practicing a personal fast of one sort or another through the season of Lent.  This is a salutary piety in Christian freedom, neither commanded nor forbidden, and as such is best kept to yourself. 


Fasting in Christ mortifies our flesh, asserting control over it, and magnifying the significance of church’s ashes, emblematic of our true condition; that we are dead apart from the Lord of all grace.  There is no boasting and no hypocrisy in either the Church’s Imposition of Ashes or in personal fasts. 


As the church gather’s at the beginning of Lent our ashes, direct us to the church’s Prayer in the Litany, “O Lord, have Mercy”, which is our one thing needful from God in Christ. 


In prayer we make our entrance into the precincts of our “secret place”.  The Liturgy of the Word directs us in Truth to our place of abiding, the Sacrament of Christ’s flesh and blood revealed to the Baptized; yet veiled and hidden to unbelievers.


Last Sunday, Elijah appeared with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration directing our attention to another “secret place”, Gethsemane; the place from which our Lord’s Passion commenced. 


Jesus asked his disciples to remain awake as he prayed to the Father.  Promptly they fell asleep while Jesus’ blood percolated through his skin desiring that God relieve him of the wrath for sin coming upon him. 


Sleep accompanies our sin condition, doesn’t it?  “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  We arrive out of our mother’s wombs spending most of our infancy in feedings and in sleep. 


As our flesh ages and decays of vitality, naptimes increase until our bodies fully sleep in death.  All have sinned so that even the Baptized are returned to the ground from which God formed us, a dusty mattress to await the resurrection of all flesh.


Today you have entered the precincts of the church, requesting to be marked with ashes betokening our bedtime trajectory.  Death is God’s judgment on sin, promised to Adam and Eve, richly deserved by we who are their progeny from conception. 


We are like our guilty brother Cain, beseeching God’s mercy and receiving a gracious saving mark.  The mark of Cain at once declared his criminality, slayer of his brother, and betokened Sanctuary from the vengeance of both God and man.  Today Sanctuary is delivered in Baptism’s promise of salvation.    


There is no Sanctuary in the imposition of ashes; they are only a visual confession in this house of the truth of God’s justice on our sin and that which is common to brothers and sisters, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return”.


But by faith in God’s word you have entered the “room” of the Christian congregation, our secret place of prayer and of God’s manifold mercy, a Sanctuary welcoming all, yet a communion closed to all but the Baptized. 


“Your room”, does not refer to a personal “little closet”, as some translations have it, where people go to pray in the private recesses of their own hearts.  Such isolated “me and Jesus” mentality is unknown to the church’s corporate communion outside of which there is no salvation. 


The early church fathers understood the communal nature of our salvation in Christ, that we “cannot have God as father unless we have the Church as mother” (Cyprian, 3rd century Bishop of Carthage).


Baptized with the Spirit in water and word we are cleansed.  Daily (Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day) the ashes of sin’s dust and death are sprinkled with the blood of Christ crucified for our forgiveness.  In our washing and feeding, eyes are opened and hearts burn (Luke 24:32) in the revelation delivered from Christ’s household stewards. 


Jesus taught the Apostles of his NT “place”, “In my Father’s house there are many places of abode” (Jn. 14:2).  In Christ one discerns God’s new temple in the Body (Jn. 2:19).  In the “place” of our abode with God, stewards are assigned for service in the church’s many “rooms”, “mansions”, or congregations.  These stewards are your pastors and deacons you have called to deliver your Father’s blessings. 


Following the proclamatory Sermon inviting the Baptized closer into the Sanctuary’s holy place; pastoral stewards of the ancient church would call for the “doors” of the “room” to be “shut” (demissa-“mass” for short).  


Deacons would usher out the unbaptized and the catechumens for instruction in the faith.  The congregation, as a communion would then pray for these and for the world, as they were oriented in the Sacrament about to be received.


Then, as now, your stewards bring forth and deliver the bounty of this place, the crucified and risen flesh of Christ for the forgiveness of sin, the promise of resurrection, and every blessing for each in our various stations. 


This is the treasure of heaven, the holy things of the New Temple revealed to opened eyes, washed of death’s slumbering sand, and received in Eucharistic thanksgiving.  Amen.




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Lent & Easter Week Schedule
2018.02.12 22:50:33


Come worship with us during Lent and Easter week. We look forward to having visitors. Some of the services will be joint services with Concordia Lutheran. Here's the schedule:


Ash Wednesday Mass (7:30 p.m., Feb. 14): Corporate confession and individual absolutions
Midweek 1 (7:30 p.m., Feb. 21): Hosted by Concordia 
Midweek 2 (7:30 p.m., Feb. 28): Vespers service hosted by Grace
Midweek 3 (7:30 p.m., March 07): Hosted by Concordia 
Midweek 4 (7:30 p.m., March 14): Vespers service hosted by Grace
Midweek 5 (7:30 p.m., March 21): Hosted by Concordia
Holy (Maundy) Thursday, (7:30 p.m., March 29): Celebrant Pr. Mills, Preacher Pr. Tauscher
Good Friday (12 p.m., March 30): Grace chief service
Good Friday (7:30 p.m., March 30): Tenebrae service hosted by Concordia.
Easter Vigil (6 p.m., March 31): Co-hosted by Grace and Concordia
Easter Day (9 a.m., April 01): Grace Easter service


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Sermon - 2/11/18
2018.02.12 22:36:39

TRANSFIGURATION/B (2018): 2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Corinthians 3:12—4:6; Mark 9:2-9.    


Veil,   [W]e are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.  But their minds were hardened.  For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains un-lifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.  Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.  But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed…  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of God, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (vv. 12-16, 18). 


St. Paul is commenting on the Book of Exodus, when Moses received the tablets of law for a second time atop Mt. Sinai.  When he descended the mountain his face shone with the glory of the Lord.  The people were afraid to look upon Moses face to face, so that whenever Moses would speak the Lord’s commands, he veiled his face (Exodus 34:29 ff.). 


Paul calls the glory, the law written on stone tablets, revealed from Moses’ face and words, a ministry of condemnation and death, even then being brought to an end (2 Cor. 3:7).  Paul favorably compares his ministry of preaching Christ to be of the Spirit and of righteousness, an exceedingly greater glory than revealed by Moses (vv. 8-10). 


Writing to the Corinthian congregation Paul warns of intruding preachers and teachers who, in his absence promote their own renown from a Mosaic glory.  It is “another Jesus… [of] a different Spirit… [and is] a different gospel” than that the Corinthian church received and accepted from him (11:4). 


Today as well, we may find ministers in congregations preaching the law’s glory, as though sinful men are able to live in accordance.  Such Mosaic ministers Paul calls ministers of condemnation and death.  Paul puts the danger and the contrast to his own ministry this way, “[T]he letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (v. 6).  


In such congregations the former glory of law and the NT gospel are hopelessly confused, each “glory” competing against the other, nullifying the Spirit’s grace.  But in Christ, “what once had glory [the law] has come to no glory at all” (v. 10); and yet by mixed preaching of both “glories” the veil of Moses continues to hide the surpassing glory of God revealed in Christ alone.


It is not that in Christ, the law is done away with; rather in light of Christ crucified for sin, the law is no longer the glory of God as for a time by the old covenant; the law in commanding obedience possesses no power to save; neither does its preaching draw us to repentance. 


At best, the law necessarily reveals our deplorable and hopeless condition apart from the grace of God who has first loved us in Christ (1 Jn. 4:19).  Law and gospel must be preached but there is no longer a glory of the law, rather glory is alone of Christ and his saving work. 


Paul is not kindly disposed toward the pastorally incompetent.  He renounces such pastors and teachers as “false-apostles” for disgraceful and underhanded ways, cunning and tampering with God’s word (2 Cor. 4:2), promoting their own or Judaizing legal notions over the singular glory of the free gospel in Jesus.  


Such ministers of the “old glory” attempt to transfer the veil from Moses’ face over the hearts and minds of men (vv. 14, 15), a “different gospel” that denies the all sufficient covering of Christ’s righteous blood.


“[I]n these last days” (Heb. 1:2) a superior, surpassing glory of the HS is revealed, that of grace and righteousness in Christ.  Only through Christ preached in the Spirit of Truth is the Mosaic veil taken away, bringing us now to revelation at the Transfiguration of our Lord. 


St. Mark mentions the brightness of Jesus’ clothing.  St. Matthew (17:2) better informs (cf. Luke 9:29); Jesus’ “face shone like the sun”.  For Peter, James, and John the veiling cloud of God’s glory is removed in hearing the Father speak, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mk. 9:7). 


The revelation of the Transfiguration reminds us of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-19); both epiphanies are of Jesus’ Resurrection.  Paul, on the road to Damascus, was possessed of demonic hatred toward Christ and his body, the NT church. 


Abruptly the veil of heaven was taken away, exposing Paul to the light of the incarnate Word, blinding him.  Graciously, his eyes were veiled by something like scales, until faith, wrought by Jesus’ speech from heaven and Ananias’ earthly ministry of God’s new glory, returned Paul’s sight and into the church’s life giving Baptism and Eucharist (vv. 17-19).    


Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration heard and saw translated Elijah and resurrected Moses speaking face to face with Jesus shining as the sun.  Like the Israelites of old, the apostles were terrified at glory (v. 6), for as yet they only knew the ministry of Moses that betokened condemnation and death through the law. 


Peter, from confusion, suggested a solution; an alternative covering to shield them from the glorious Light; three tabernacles, that would allow the apostles to remain in the presence they beheld. 


At the suggestion God intervened, The Cloud of heaven enveloped Jesus revealing he and the Father as one.  The Father concluded speaking and the veiling cloud was taken away disclosing the central truth of God’s glory, “only Jesus” (v. 8).  The Apostles find themselves with Jesus alone in whose flesh the NT church has her true tabernacle with the Father and the saints of heaven on the Way. 


As in the OT, the appearance of Elijah and Moses on the Mount teach and point the Way to the NT church’s only glory of grace and Spirit.  The law of Moses commands God’s people to, “be perfect as God is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).  Israel was an adulterous bride; verbally they promised God to love, honor, and “obey” (Exodus 19:8), yet incapable of reconciling their words to the Lord with their sin nature. 


In that self-knowledge, Israel required that Moses shield them from their espoused calling to fidelity and the glory of God’s holiness revealed in law.  God is who he is (holy); and we are who we are (profane).  By the law, Moses was minister of glory, but in Israel’s breach the old covenant was condemnation and death. 


But Moses was also a prophet of future hope, offering another ministry, a covenant in blood; a different glory pointing to a New Covenant.  Moses first delivered the law (Exodus 20) and then gathered the people “took the blood (of a peace offering)… took half the blood and threw it against the altar…  And took the blood and threw it on the people…” (24:6-8).  Here was the archetype preaching of unconfused law and gospel. 


On the Mount of Transfiguration Moses directs us to the NT of Jesus’ “exodus” (Luke 9:31) through the “valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4) to be God’s “peace offering” on the cross for sin.  The sacrificial Blood of God’s Paschal Lamb on the NT altar of the cross Eucharistically sprinkles repentant hearts, unveiling the greater glory of God in Christ and “[transforming us] into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18b).    


Elijah’s presence on the Mount (whom Jesus informs is Scripture’s latter day JB, Mk. 9:12, 13) catechizes us of the necessity of Gethsemane and Golgotha to where Jesus would now descend, his apostles in tow.  Jesus is not resurrected apart from his chariot of fire (2 Kg. 2:11, 12), consumed and lifted to God’s new glory in the cross’ fiery Passion by the HS.  Elijah’s fiery exit into heaven directs Peter, James, John, and the church to our “all-sufficient sacrifice” for the sin of the world (unbelief) and forgiveness of sins.   


According to the Spirit’s ministry of grace preached by Paul in Corinth, there is but one Jesus, one Spirit, and one gospel completely trumping the law’s condemnation; a greater glory of grace by faith in Christ alone “apart from the works of the law” (Rom. 3:28).  Amen.




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Sermon - 2/4/17
2018.02.07 15:26:05

EPIPHANY 5/B (2018): Isa. 40:21-31; 1 Cor. 9:16-27; Mk. 1:29-39 


Subdue,       [N]ecessity is laid upon me.  Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!...  I am entrusted with a commission… under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law…  I have become all things to all men…  [I]n a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize[.]  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things…  [I] do not run aimlessly… but I pummel my body and subdue it…” (RSV: vv. 16b, 17c, 21b, d, 22b, 24b, 25, 27a). 


St. Paul writes to the Corinthian church of Sparta. Spartans were possessed of a warlike ethos.  Historically male children were given over to the state for military training under harsh conditioning and privation.  In his commission to preach the gospel Paul would be “all things to all men”.  He writes of spiritual matters to the Corinthians employing the imagery of discipline, the runner and the boxer, “Every athlete exercises self control in all things… I pummel my body and subdue it…”


So also Jesus has come out of heaven, the Holy One of God, to wage war on behalf of mankind. The pummeling of his body began at his Baptism in the sin-laden waters of the Jordan.  By that immersion Jesus received his commission into his warrior calling.  There he was marked for death. 


Resurrected from the Jordan’s watery chaos Jesus was anointed with the HS to his mission and heard his Father’s approving voice and believing in the end he would be victorious over God’s enemies; sin, Satan, death, and the grave.


Last Sunday a demoniac suddenly and brazenly interrupted Jesus’ Sabbath sermon in the synagogue of Capernaum. Modernly we tend not to give credence to demon possession.  In first world countries our complacency is no doubt the result of Christianity’s mission success and historic influence. 


Still one only need look to places in the world where the church has been suppressed to see evil in the lives of benighted men and women. And if we look to our own devolving spiritual lives it is hard to deny loss of civility, love, and in public discourse an ascendant animus among men and women holding differing values and views.


In any event the profanity of a demoniac confronting Jesus in the synagogue is but paradigmatic of mankind’s problem in general, that by sin we are misshapen, unholy creatures, no longer authentically human in the image and reflecting the likeness of our Creator. We rage against the will of God in our lives and like the possessed man are hostages to an alien spiritual nature. 


“[We] do not do the good [we] want, but the evil we do not want is what [we] keep on doing” (Rom. 7:19), helpless of ourselves to change. If we are to change we must be exorcized into Jesus’ death for us.  We must become new creations by faith out of Baptism’s washing with the Word, the Holy One of God. 


By Baptism we have our new begetting from above with Christ to trust in God’s will and pleasure, and on the last day that he will raise our oft pummeled bodies in this life by profane men and death’s decrepitude.


The demoniac of Capernaum declaring that he knew Jesus’ identity, the Holy One of God, attempted to assert power over Jesus. But by “one little word” Jesus destroyed the demon consigning it to the dark, deep place, out of which it came, depriving it of the humanity on which it fed. 


The man restored to health, Jesus immediately departed the synagogue to Peter’s house, portending a movement into the NT house church in his presence, where his word would be taught, not as the scribes, but with authority (Mk. 1:22).


Peter’s mother-in-law was suffering, laid low by a fever. Jesus immediately dispatched the punishing fever as the demon earlier.  Jesus rendered the woman a fit helpmate for service among the disciples, our shared Christian vocation with the Lord. 


At sundown, the Sabbath day concluded; the town folk brought all who were sick and demon possessed to Peter’s house. Throughout the night Jesus attended to the crowd.  Exhausted from lack of sleep Jesus rose early in the morning going out to the wilderness praying to his heavenly Father, his sole reliance and source of strength.


Peter hunted Jesus down thinking he should return to Capernaum and follow-up on the previous day’s success. But Jesus was fully aware of why he had come, not only to preach the kingdom of heaven in his presence, but in doing so to also wage war.  He would go throughout Israel casting out demon usurpers of God’s rightful rule in the world, warning of judgment for those rejecting his gracious reign. 


To this mission, reclaiming contested territory from demons and those in the world aligned with them who rage against God and Christ (Ps. 2:1, 2); Jesus now invites his disciples to join his march, “Let us go on to the next towns” (Mk. 1:38a).


On his way to Jerusalem, the stronghold of those entrenched against him; Jesus invaded all of Galilee by the power of his word. In Jerusalem the death Jesus’ Baptism portended came to pass.  At the cross, Jesus trusted in God (Mt. 27:43a) to glorify his Son (Jn. 12:28; 17:5) and vindicated his mission in the Resurrection. 


At the cross Jesus our divine warrior exercised supreme self-control over his own will in favor of his Father, allowing others to pummel and subdue his sacrificial body in service to God and man; the forgiveness of sin and our new begetting for the new creation coming into being.


By Baptism in Christ we are commissioned to the law of Christ, of faith that trusts in God for all things in all circumstances. St. Paul urges us to a Spartan-like discipline of reliance on God through faith reminiscent of Isaiah, “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength… they shall run and not be weary” (40:31). 


In Christ water, blood, and Spirit cleanse us. In discipline we wait on the Lord coming out of the water to receive renewed strength and through the Baptized he is concluding his war against Satan and sin that inheres in our limbs and marrow. 


Because of who we are in Christ we practice self-control and mortify our passions. When we fail we are given repentant hearts and the promise of abundant forgiveness, and nourishment in the Body of Christ on the Way.  Amen.





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Sermon - 1/28/18
2018.01.31 23:57:03

EPIPHANY 4/B (2018): Deut. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; Mk. 1:21-28  


Knowledge,           [W]e know that “all of us possess knowledge.”  This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.  If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.  But if anyone loves God, he is known by God (vv. 1-3). 


In the case of the Corinthians, to whom St. Paul writes, the particular knowledge concerned Christian freedom in eating food sacrificed to idols without regard to its effect on brothers and sisters new in the faith.


Paul is merely stating as previously, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful” (1 Cor. 6:12).  In fact, thoughtless exercise of our freedom, if it causes scandal to less “knowledgeable” consciences may be sin for failure to love.  


Christians are in the Way, which implies that we are called to grow in both the church’s confessed faith and in our faith relation in Christ. Christians are called to never-ending growth in knowing our eternal Father in Christ (Jn. 17:3). 


If for love’s sake we accommodate the weaknesses of immature Christians when exercising our liberty; we are not free to perpetuate on-going ignorance or error. These we must challenge for the sake of Truth. 


Martin Luther was presented with a laundry list of error on the part of Roman, Reformed (Calvinists), and fanatical religious divines. The Lutheran Reformation took its stand against these for the church’s true knowledge of God revealed in Christ crucified and risen.  


In today’s Gospel Jesus comes for reformation to the synagogue at Capernaum for the sake of true knowledge of God. Israel, in these last days, was ready to advance in the faith of their fathers.  The synagogue invited Jesus to give a sermonic comment at the conclusion of the Sabbath’s Scripture Readings. 


While Jesus’ teaching is not specified, we assume it to be of God’s graciousness and man’s comfort in his presence. St. Mark records only the congregation’s reaction to Jesus’ words; they found them astonishingly distinct from that taught by “knowledgeable” scribes, in both presentation and substance of message. 


The authority by which Jesus expounded the Scriptures must have brought to the congregation’s mind Moses prophecy from Deuteronomy, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—” (18:15). 


Soon enough, Jesus’ new teaching would bring violent reactions from those occupying the seat of Moses, the scribes, Pharisees, and High Priests; but first Jesus has provoked a truly horrible reaction from satanic realms. A man consumed and host of demons suddenly appeared in the congregation to attack Jesus’ departure from scribal precedents and tradition. 


It is opined that Satan is the most intelligent, enlightened, and knowledgeable of creatures; that, no doubt is true. It is also true that Satan desires that people remain ignorant of the one true God.  Programmatic to that end is Satan’s campaign against God by slander and half-truth, that is, by his anti-word. 


But in today’s Gospel God has raised-up Jesus, “One like Moses”, the only one to whom Israel must “listen”. In Jesus men obtain and experience true knowledge of God’s being, character, and ethic; and believing in this God alone we are remade to our authentic human identity, the image of our Creator God. 


Luther was taught by the church authorities of his day that Christ was a wrathful judge demanding what sinful men could never achieve for unity with God, perfect holiness. Until his epiphany from Scripture of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ apart from works of the law (Rom. 3:28) Luther feared and hated God whom he did not know.  But the revelation of Jesus crucified for the sin of the world is precisely the only place where the true God is made known. 


Like Luther, Israel trembled before the God taught by scribes and Pharisees. Israel sought God in Scripture but from their teachers they only “knew” a terrifying Holy God of law about whom the people said to Moses, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die” (Dt. 18:16b). 


The demon-consumed man of our Gospel suddenly appeared in the synagogue to exacerbate the congregation’s natural fear of sinful men hearing the voice of the Lord face-to-face. The demoniac asked Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?” echoing the people’s own fears expressed to Moses.


One might inquire, just how is a demon spirit destroyed? From the facts of the case the demon was destroyed by its exorcism from the possessed man.  The demon, consumed humanity, not of its own nature, to corrupt its host and give expression in the world of its essential being of hatred toward God and men. 


Next the demon intended to enhance the fear already instilled into the congregation by declaring Jesus to be “the Holy One of God” (v. 24b).  In OT Scripture, it is Aaron, High Priest and brother of Moses who is titled, “the Holy One of the LORD” (Ps. 106:16).  But now this priestly title is on the lips of a demon to identify Jesus in his divinity face-to-face in the community of brothers. 


Holiness necessarily comes as a result of separation, of casting out that which is sinful and profane from the presence of a Holy God. While Jesus is indeed “the Holy One of God”, the implication intended from the demoniac was to increase the congregation’s fear built on legalistic traditions about God through the law as taught by scribes and Pharisees. 


But Jesus has come amongst his brothers for a new teaching of Torah’s meaning and intent; the plenary grant of forgiveness and holiness once and for all in the Voice of the One to whom men must listen. God’s plan for separating out our profanity and so being reunited in the holiness of God’s presence, comes by a new knowledge of God only finally delivered with the death and resurrection of his sacrificial Holy One . 


Devils are not permitted to dispense knowledge of heavenly things; they are wont to employ half-truth to advance their lie about God and his Christ. The apocalyptic spiritual battle between the kingdom of heaven vs. Satan’s rule in the world was now in full sway.  To the demoniac, Jesus issued a command, “phimotheti”, or “shut-up”, which according to Luther is the “one little word that fells [Satan]”  (“A Mighty Fortress is our God” s. 3).  


At Jesus’ word the demon is destroyed, forced to depart its human host; the profanity of satanic occupation was separated out of the restored man, portending Jesus’ High Priestly and gracious work of God on the cross for all men and our reunion with God in holiness.


Again from St. Paul, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Through the millennia, from the Fall into the darkness of sin, men have sought no higher value and purpose in the world than to advance in “knowledge” to attain ever increasing stages of enlightenment above and over other men.  We often accord such persons the honorific, “The smartest person in the room”. 


But with the advent of Christ and him crucified we are given to know and participate in God’s intended purpose for us from the beginning; to look, act, hear, and speak as him into whose image and likeness we have been remade, Jesus Christ, who by his High Priestly work on the cross is love (1 Jn. 4:8b).


If Satan would distort us to our destruction from an authentic human identity, consuming us in sin and rebellion; it is God, who is love in giving his Son’s crucified and risen body for our Eucharistic consumption, the author of Life and holiness with God in Christ, in the Way. Amen. 




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Sermon - 1/21/18
2018.01.22 23:12:49

EPIPHANY 3/B (2018): Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Cor. 7:29-35; Mk. 1:14-20 


Time,            [T]he appointed time has grown very short…  For the present from of this world is passing away (vv. 29, 31b). 


St. Paul’s warning that the “appointed time” is short dominates our Readings, including the Introit, “From the rising of the sun to its setting” (Ps. 113:3) and Psalmody, “For God alone my soul waits… Trust in him at all times” (Ps. 62:1, 8).


The Readings deal with God’s urgent call to men and our response to his voice; urgency is punctuated by the efficiency of the Word in our texts.


Much to Jonah’s displeasure God commanded he deliver a precise ten-word sermon to the Assyrian Ninevites, “Yet in forty days Nineveh is about to be changed” (3:4b).  On hearing these words from the Hebrew prophet of God all Nineveh repented, with the result that God relented; judgment changed to grace.  Nineveh’s repentance, worked by God’s word, averted imminent disaster. 


Two Sunday’s ago we heard JB’s pithy sermon, proclaiming, “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” with the result that all Judea and Jerusalem were being baptized and confessing their sins (Mk. 1:4, 5). 


Last Sunday Nathaniel responded to Philip’s invitation, “If you come, you will see [Jesus the promised Messiah]” (Jn. 1:46b).  Later when Jesus revealed to Nathaniel the sight of his sitting under a fig tree known only to him, Nathaniel gesticulated his confession, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel” (vv. 48b, 49).  The power of God’s word is such that long sermons to conversion are unnecessary, only our receptivity to what God declares. 


Today’s Gospel finds Jesus preaching near the Sea of Galilee, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:14, 15).  The urgency of this sermon is unmistakable.  That evening as the Bethsaida fishing fleet was getting ready to cast-off onto the water, Jesus cast his gaze on Peter and Andrew, and then on James and John, personalizing his sermon, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (v. 17) [into my Kingdom now at hand]. 


The Ninevites, the Judean populace, Philip, Nathaniel, Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, at God’s proclaimed word, all discerned what Paul reveals as the “appointed time”, calling men to urgent and wholehearted response at the beckon.  God comes to men for mercy and grace, or if refused, for judgment; but desiring we choose Life. “In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son whom he appointed the heir of all things…” (Heb. 1:2). 


So what is the urgency to which you and I are presented at this “appointed time”?  It is the urgency that attends the fallout from great kingdoms at war, when there is nowhere to hide but in the safety of the kingdom assured of prevailing.  God has ordained his king out of heaven, the man Jesus appointed to his hour to finally depose the pretender Prince of the World. 


On being baptized and anointed with the HS, Jesus was driven into the wilderness to confront Satan and be tested by worldly blandishments. After dispatching Satan in that initial engagement, warfare on earth was fully joined.  


Jesus, in Mark, next appears in Galilee to gather an apostolic band of brothers, precisely between his confrontation in the wilderness and exorcism of an unclean spirit in a Capernaum synagogue, portending the spiritual nature of the war of kingdoms.


All mankind is born in sin into bondage of Satan’s thralldom. At the appointed time, today, if you hear his word, men are called to transfer their kingdom allegiance, a different life than offered by a fallen and dying world. 


Jonah was called into the army of God’s word; instead he dodged and burned his draft card. God commissioned him to preach his word to Gentile religious pagans in Assyria for salvation or destruction in forty days.  Jonah, disgusted at God’s plan of universal salvation, instead ran in the opposite direction to Tarshish (modern Spain). 


In God’s warfare against of Satan one is not permitted to stand as a pacifist, morally superior or ambivalent toward God and his plan for the salvation of all men. At God’s word, one is either for or against his coming reign on earth.  Jonah, rejected God’s command marking his treason.  He was thrown into the deep, consigned to death in the abyss of the demonic. 


But God is the God of second chances, assigning a great fish to rescue from where Jonan prayed for delivery. After three days in the grave Jonah arose from his watery baptism onto shore and new obedience to travel to Gentile Nineveh, preaching God’s ten-word sermon to conversion. 


In today’s Gospel Jesus called his initial band of brothers from the Sea of Galilee to public ministry, “fishers of men”, by the power of his word and raising men out of Satan’s deep place.  God’s word catches and brings us into the boat and Light of God’s kingdom, new creations in Christ whom we call Ichthus, the church’s great fish of salvation.  


We have as examples in our new kingdom citizenship, the unhesitating enlistment of the Galilean Apostles. Peter immediately left the worldly comforts of house, wife, and occupation.  The sons of Zebedee urgently left the security of family and business opportunity with their earthly father; but with St. Paul we discover the “Apostle of a Second Chance. 


From the martyred St. Stephen, Paul heard the testimony of Christ crucified and risen; nevertheless he rejected the word to persecute the church, re-crucifying the body of Christ. While on the road to Damascus Paul bore the same anger toward God in Christ as Jonah held for God’s salvation of all men.  Jesus, the enfleshed Torah of God, spoke to Paul from heaven’s blinding Light and graciously according baptism’s second chance, new sight, and apostleship. 


Paul, like Jonah received a second chance from the God, relenting of judgment in the face of repentance. Where Jonah continued in his anger with God for his grace to Gentiles; Paul instead gloried in being “least” of brothers (1 Cor. 15:9, Eph. 3:8) and Apostle to The Gentiles. 


Paul’s gracious salvation was keen to teach Corinthian brothers and sisters to remain strong and wholly committed to Christ in the warfare underway, warning, “[T]he appointed time has grown very short… For the present from of this world is passing away.”  


Paul would have us understand what it means to find ourselves in Christ by Baptism. The activity of God in Christ crucified, and his blood and Spirit conveyed in water and word make us new creations for the new creation coming into being.  This is the sight to which Christians are called in the church’s Light. 


Paul says, “let those who have wives live as though they had none” (1 Cor. 7:29b), which is to say, that as men and women in the world marry, men are wont to exercise arbitrary dominion.  In such sinful relation women desire her husband’s office and authority.  But the Baptized marry “in Christ” who is the center and fount of all sacramental forgiveness and sacrificial love that God intends for marital union in the kingdom of heaven on earth.  Men live with wives, as God loves you; and wives love their husbands as the church loves her Lord who has given his all. 


“[A]nd those who mourn as though they were not mourning” (v. 30a). Only those without hope inconsolable state at the grave.


“[A]nd those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though who they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it” (vv. 30b, c, 31). It is vanity to rejoice in the things of a dying world being remade to a new and better creation. 


Rejoice rather in the things of God’s abundant word with us. Consider our table prayer, “The eyes of all look to you and you satisfy the desires of every living thing”; nor should you squander your joy toward the passing stuff of the world that merely delights and appeases decaying flesh. 


You have been plucked from the kingdom of Satan who distracts on every occasion from what God has done in Christ crucified and your inheritance of all things in him as sons and daughters of God. In that Joy and those riches is our true delight and hope.  Amen. 






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